Utah School District To Pay $2M Settlement To Family Of 10-Year-Old Black Girl Who Died Of Suicide

Utah School District To Pay $2M Settlement To Family Of 10-Year-Old Black Girl Who Died Of Suicide | Todd Wright
Utah School District To Pay $2M Settlement To Family Of 10-Year-Old Black Girl Who Died Of Suicide | Todd Wright

Utah’s Davis School District will pay $2 million to the family of Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a 10-year-old girl who died of suicide after being bullied at her school. It is one of the largest civil rights settlements ever in the state, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The agreement ends the family’s fight for justice for Tichenor, culminating in a lawsuit last year. After the girl’s death in November 2021, the family asked for $14 million.

The district and the family issued a joint statement on Tuesday, announcing the news and reflecting on what this means for the future.

“Davis School District is committed to making schools a safe and welcoming environment for all,” the district said.

A statue of Tichenor will reportedly be put inside her school’s library. The district has also hired Jackie Thompson, an educator and civil rights activist, to help with necessary reforms and offer training, as the Department of Justice requires. 

“Just because you win some money, [it] doesn’t compare to the child not being there,” Brittany Tichenor-Cox, the 10-year-old’s mother, said in a news conference.

Tichenor experienced bullying from both students and educators at her school. The investigation concluded that she was the target of race-based bullying, which included her being called racist names and being told she smelled because of her skin color. The girl was also the target of comments relating to her having autism and was threatened with a gun. The investigation found that educators also issued derogatory remarks after the girl’s death.

The school was found to have ignored at least one abuse report and not appropriately investigated.

Her mother says she saw no warning signs before her daughter’s death.

“I didn’t know she thought like that; I was so involved with her at school,” she said. “You don’t know what a child is going through mentally.”

This pushed her to become an advocate against racism experienced by children in schools.

“I still want to be able to help a lot of kids out there. I’m going to continue to spread her name,” she said on Tuesday.

Tichenor’s experience is not an isolated case in the state of Utah. Davis School District paid $200,000 to the families of three students who experienced racial discrimination this year. Tichenor’s death also came after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report about Utah school districts’ mishandling of reports of racism.

The girl’s experience is not an isolated case throughout the country either. Suicide death rates for Black American girls between the ages of 13 and 19 increased by 182% from 2001 to 2017, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Community Health.

Some experts regard bullying as one of the leading causes of death by suicide in Black youths.

“Being bullied can definitely have an adverse impact on depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempt,” Amanda Nickerson, the director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo, told TIME.

A 2020 study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found a strong correlation between racial discrimination and depression among Black teenagers.

Experts point to additional mental health resources, training for school staff, and education on Black history as potential solutions.