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Davis school board president says investigation team is being compiled after 10-year-old's death

An undated photo of Isabella "Izzy" Faith Tichenor.

An undated photo of Isabella "Izzy" Faith Tichenor. (Family photo)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of 10-year-old Isabella "Izzy" Faith Tichenor's death last week, Davis School District personnel have been meeting daily and are taking the tragedy very seriously, the district's school board president said Tuesday.

"We again express our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family of Izzy Tichenor," board president John Robison said in a statement released by the district. "We will continue to provide and offer support to Izzy's family and the school community as we move forward."

Izzy Tichenor, who was Black and had autism, died by suicide on Nov. 6. Her family members say she was harassed and bullied because of her race and disability. Izzy's death has prompted an outpouring of grief over the tragedy, support for the family and anger at the circumstances that led to her death.

The Tichenor family released a statement through attorney Tyler Ayers late Tuesday night.

"The family of Izzy Tischenor, while appreciative of the district's interest and concern for Izzy now, simply wish the statement they issued today, reflected their attitude and actions three weeks ago," the statement said.

"As we fight for children who feel silenced and disregarded, like Izzy, we hope we will be fighting alongside the district and not with them. This will only be possible when the district acknowledges the responsibility they have to educate all children regarding racial, religious, economic and cognitive differences.

"Recognition of a problem is the first step to finding a solution."

District officials announced last week that they would undergo an independent investigation into Izzy's death. Robison said Tuesday that the district is in the process of assembling that team, which will include an expert in interviewing children about trauma, an expert in educational practices and an expert in the law.

"As for the district and its schools, every incident of harassment and bullying is investigated. There is a process that is followed at the school level and the district level depending on the seriousness of any reported event," Robison said.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice released findings of an investigation that revealed "widespread" incidents of racial harassment and discrimination within the Davis School District. Black students told investigators that non-Black students routinely called them the N-word and other racial slurs, and told them their skin was dirty or looked like feces, according to the investigation.

When that investigation began over two years ago, all of the district's administrators began training on how to investigate, assess and respond to allegations of racial harassment, according to Robison.

"With the release of the Department of Justice's findings, every school administrator continues to be trained," Robison said.

District Superintendent Reed Newey said he does not plan to resign from his position, as some have suggested, but he validated the Department of Justice's report.

"We accept the findings of the DOJ and own that and take responsibility for that and we feel it's our responsibility to change that," Newey said. "We don't and have never pretended or suggested that we don't have racism in our schools, just like we have it in society as a whole."

Robison said the district also has 22 family service workers, 53 elementary counselors and 53 school psychologists available to help students who need additional support.

The school board president added that district personnel can't share many details about their interactions with the Tichenor family due to privacy concerns and professional obligations. However, Robison said the family has been provided with "extensive resources" since their children were enrolled in the district. The family also chose to continue having their children attend Davis School District schools after they moved out of the district because of the relationship the family had with schools and teachers, he said. Robison didn't elaborate further on the district's relationship with the family.

Izzy's mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, said her daughter didn't think her teacher this year liked her, because the teacher wouldn't interact with Izzy in the same way that the teacher interacted with other children.

"What happened to her, she did not deserve that," Jasmine Rhodes, Izzy's aunt, said last week. "She deserved so much more. She deserved opportunities as any other kid deserves opportunities. She deserved to watch her siblings grow up. ... She just deserved so much more than what she got."

Contributing: Debbie Worthen

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