SUICIDE PREVENTION

Davis School District will investigate suicide of autistic girl

Nov 16, 2021, 7:56 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2022, 8:46 am
(Undated photo of Isabella "Izzy" Tichenor.  Family photo)...
(Undated photo of Isabella "Izzy" Tichenor. Family photo)
(Undated photo of Isabella "Izzy" Tichenor. Family photo)

FARMINGTON, Utah — The Davis School District is announcing more steps they’re taking to investigate the suicide of a 10-year-old autistic girl.  The girl’s family says she was constantly bullied at school about her autism and her skin color.

Suicide of autistic girl

Izzy Tichenor took her own life in early November and officials with the Davis School District, once again, stated their condolences for the family.  At the beginning of the regularly scheduled board of education meeting, Board President John Robison read a statement. It said they’ll continue to provide support to her family and “the school community” as they find a way to move forward.

Robison said, “Extensive resources were provided to the family since enrolling their children.  In fact, the family chose to continue having their children attend our schools after moving outside the district.”

Robison added that there is a process to evaluate and investigate claims of harassment. Each case is handled either at the school level or the district level, depending on the severity of each accusation.

“Every incident of harassment and bullying is investigated,” Robison said.

“Serious and widespread racial harassment”

In October, the Department of Justice issued a scathing report about a “culture of racism” within the district.  Black students say non-black students called them the N word on a regular basis. They were also frequently told their skin looked dirty.  District Superintendent Reid Newey said they fully accept the DOJ findings, and will strive to change the culture.

(Members of the Davis School District Board of Education, after they spoke about their independent team that will investigate the suicide. Photo: Adam Sotelo, KSL TV)

“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,” Newey said.

District officials also announced more details about an independent team they’re forming to investigate what led to Tichenor’s suicide.  That team will have an expert on interviewing children about trauma, an expert in educational practices and a legal expert.  Newey couldn’t confirm an exact date on when this team will be formed. However, he said they’re close to selecting the team members.

Newey said, “We do a significant and very dissecting analysis of what could have been missed by us.”

The impact of bullying on kids with autism

Doctors with University of Utah Health and the Huntsman Mental Health Institute say bullying is damaging to anyone who experiences it. But it can be especially traumatic for kids on the autism spectrum.  Occupational and Recreational Therapies Assistant Professor Anne Kirby said many people wrongly assumed autistic children didn’t understand if they were being bullied.

“I think we’re learning more and more that that’s not the case,” Kirby said.

Children on the spectrum are reportedly 1.5 times more vulnerable to suicide, according to Kirby. 

She said, “Our research, that we’ve done here in Utah, found that autistic women and girls, in particular, were at increased risk compared to non-autistic women and girls.”

Many children don’t want to talk with their parents about being bullied, believing the parents will just make matters worse.  Neuropsychologist Scott Lagenecker says parents will have to keep a close eye on their child’s behavior to spot any possible signs.  For instance, many kids who are targeted lose their motivation to go to school.

Lagenecker said, “It comes across in very subtle ways.  If they have trouble falling asleep at night, that may be because they’re worrying about the bullying.”

If a child isn’t feeling safe at school, doctors say parents need to find other groups or places where a child feels comfortable expressing themselves.  They say helping kids feel comfortable in their own skin could help mitigate the amount of bullying they see.

Izzy’s parents respond

The Tichenor family responded to the news the Davis School District is forming an independent investigation through their lawyer.  

They said they want to help in the fight against racism alongside the school district.  But made it clear that can’t happen in Davis County schools if the District doesn’t take responsibility for its inability to teach students about acceptance.  

Here is the full statement through their attorney, Tyler Ayers:

The family of Izzy Tichenor, while appreciative of the Districts interest and concern for Izzy now, simply wish the statement they issued today, reflected their attitude and actions three weeks ago.

Suicide Prevention

A family photo shows Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, who at 10 years old died by suicide over the sec...
Aimee Cobabe and Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawmakers approve bill inspired by Izzy Tichenor to track who gets bullied at school

Utah lawmakers passed a bill to require school officials to collect data on kids who are getting bullied. That data would include the victim's demographics.
4 months ago
Two individuals are in the custody of Millard County Sheriff's deputies Wednesday night.  Photo cre...
Mark Jackson

Scipio shelter-in-place lifted after two individuals taken into custody

The Scipio shelter-in-place was enacted after deputies responded to a residence on a report of an individual threatening self-harm.
5 months ago
FILE -- Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah conducts the ceremony as the lighting of a m...
Curt Gresseth

One person can be the light for someone in a dark place, says rabbi

Utah Rabbi Avremi Zippel is working to create a dedicated webpage for young Jewish professionals to help them help those in despair.
7 months ago
FILE - This Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, file photo shows application icons from left, Facebook, Facebook...
Curt Gresseth

Social-media envy got you down during Christmas? Doc has holiday tips.

Social media can unplug your Christmas lights, if you are not careful. A mental health expert stuffs your stockings with tips and advice on how to avoid sliding into holiday depression.
7 months ago
Utah Jazz honor 10-year-old...
Heather Kelly

The Utah Jazz honor 10-year-old by donating $50,000

Utah Jazz honor 10-year-old Izzy Tichenor with a moment of silence before their game. The team also donated $50,000 to her family's campaign in her honor.
8 months ago
mental health magnet...
Ladd Eagan, KSL TV

Mental health magnet being mailed to Alpine District parents

The postcard-sized magnet features information and telephone numbers for use in a mental health emergency.
9 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Davis School District will investigate suicide of autistic girl