Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Donovan Mitchell struggled to find the right word.
Mind-boggling. Sad. Disgusting.
None of them came close to capturing the emotions he was feeling. There's simply not a word that can sum up the tragedy of the situation.
Ten-year-old Isabella "Izzy" Faith Tichenor died by suicide over the weekend after being the subject of bullying from her peers and faculty while attending Foxboro Elementary, her family said. Izzy was Black and had autism.
"She was an easy target, especially after a teacher joined in mocking this young lady," a statement from the family read. "As any parent would, we reported this abuse to her teachers, the school administration, and the district administration. Nothing. Nothing was done to protect Izzy. Children did not have their behavior corrected so the torment of this child continued day after day."
Mind-boggling. Sad. Disgusting. How could something like this happen? That's the question Mitchell asked himself as he heard the tragic news.
Anger coursed through his body as he fired off tweets about the situation, condemning racism and chastising the people who'd heard Izzy's family's complaints and didn't do enough to stop a young girl from taking her own life.
Davis County School District officials said they were aware of an incident involving another student and the "teacher and administration responded quickly and appropriately."
"People were alerted about the situation, by the child, by the parents … no one did anything," Mitchell said. "She was an autistic, Black girl. Our jobs, especially in education, are to inspire and teach our youth to be better than we are.
"People sat there and let this continue to a point where a 10-year-old girl killed herself. That to me doesn't sit right, it doesn't feel right," he continued. "As a human being, how do you let it get to that point? Especially after being told about it. You can't say you didn't know."
I am at a loss for words rn… this is honestly sick! A little girl committing suicide because she was bullied based on the color of her skin… it's sickening that grown adults knew about this and didn't give a damn! Rest in Paradise Izzy! WE will be your voice 🕊❤️ https://t.co/IqNDPTsU72— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) November 10, 2021
Izzy was Black and had autism, two things that made her different from most her peers; and it made her a target for bullies, her family said.
Her death came mere weeks after a Department of Justice investigation into the Davis School District, where Foxboro Elementary resides, revealed "serious and widespread racial harassment."
"As a prominent Black man in this state, I feel like it's my job to speak for people who don't feel like they have a voice," Mitchell said.
Joe Ingles spent an hour speaking with Izzy's mother, Brittany, this week. It was a personal conversation, and one where Ingles revealed about his own fears of sending his son Jacob, who has autism, to school. Brittany shared the stories she'd heard about the bullying Izzy endured.
Ingles said he wants his son to go to school alongside his twin sister Milla, but he knows that he could be an "easy target" for bullying just like Izzy was. Hearing the things that young Izzy dealt with was heartbreaking, he said.
"It's disgusting," he said. "At the moment, the teacher of that class is still at school, the kids who were bullying her are going to school, and Izzy's families are the only people that are really living a different life."
Ingles promised her that he'd try to get in a room with the people that could make a difference in order to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again.
"I don't know exactly what that looks like right now because I haven't done a lot of stuff in that type of space, but I promised her, and I'm not going to break that," he said.
Ingles won't be alone. Mitchell, Jazz owner Ryan Smith and the whole organization are looking to battle the issue. But what that looks like is yet to be determined. Mitchell said he's hoping to meet with Brittany and Izzy's family soon in order to offer support, but also discover ways to help as much as possible.
"That's not our job to neglect when our children are feeling a certain way," he said. "You go to school to learn and go to school to become something that you want to be, somebody that you dream of."