A 10-year-old Utah girl who killed herself last year was told by peers and teachers that she smelled and should shower, according to the findings of a new investigation, CNN reports.
As CrimeOnline reported previously, Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor committed suicide in November.
At the time, her mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, had alleged that her daughter was being bullied at Foxboro Elementary School near Salt Lake City because of her race and a disability. Izzy was autistic and dyslexic, her mother said.
The Davis School District subsequently launched an investigation, and a new report stemming from that probe has found that other students and some teachers told Izzy that she smelled and should bathe.
No employees or students interviewed as part of the review recalled Izzy being bullied because of her race or autism, but many people reportedly commented on her hygiene.
In one instance, Tichenor-Cox reported to a teacher that a classmate was bullying Izzy by saying she smelled and should wash her hair.
A special education teacher allegedly made a similar comment to Izzy, telling her that she smelled and should shower. Izzy is said to have sprayed Febreze on herself afterward.
The investigation did not find “direct evidence” that she was the target of bullying because of her race, autism or dyslexia, according to KSL-TV.
Investigators also found that the school had no record of Izzy being diagnosed with autism. Tichenor-Cox had asked for an assessment in 2020 but she did not get Izzy formally tested.
Still, the report states that “issues relating to race, disability, and poverty sometimes intersect and when they do, can further complicate already challenging situations. it can be very difficult to extricate one from the others.”
“When a student told Izzy she needed to wash her hair, this comment could have been borne out of racial animus, could have been an innocuous observation, or could have been a clocked insult about poverty,” the report reads.
Further, the investigation found that school authorities did not timely investigate the mother’s allegations of bullying. Staff at the elementary school allegedly took months to create an official record of the bullying allegations, according to the report.
Investigators found that school staff lacked knowledge of how the district defines bullying and that the school environment allowed bullying to “go underreported, uninvestigated, and unaddressed,” the report states.
Tichenor-Cox had reported three incidents since September 2021 in which a student was calling Izzy names. The mother told the school that the same student had been harassing her other daughters and claimed he had a gun.
School staff searched the student’s backpack and reviewed security camera footage but determined there wasn’t enough evidence to substantiate the allegations.
About a week later, Tichenor-Cox contacted the school again and said “the same student called Izzy’s sister the ’N-word’ and touched her,” according to the report. School staff spoke with potential witnesses and said they could not verify what happened, but concluded that the allegation “more likely than not” happened, leading to disciplinary action against the student.
The student and Tichenor-Cox’s children also agreed to avoid each other following the incident.
Following the girl’s death, the Justice Department alleged that Black and Asian American students in the school district had been the subject of harassment for years and had ignored complaints about the issue. The DOJ had already been investigating the district since July 2019.
The school district has responded to the investigative findings, telling CNN that it is taking the report seriously.
“We vow to continue our ongoing and extensive efforts to foster a welcoming environment for all students in the Davis School District,” the statement reads, according to CNN.
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[Featured image: Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor /GoFundMe]