The mother of a 10-year-old Black girl with autism who died by suicide last year after allegedly being bullied has served the Davis School District a $14.5 million damages claim.
Brittany Tichenor-Cox, the mother of 10-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Faith Tichenor, filed the claim on Wednesday. According to Tichenor-Cox’s attorney, Tyler Ayers, the claim is a necessary step under Utah state law before a civil lawsuit can be pursued.
Tichenor, who studied at Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake, died by suicide on Nov. 6, 2021. The Davis School District hired a law firm following her death, and its investigation concluded that Tichenor was harassed by Foxboro Elementary School students and staff members due to her hygiene. The investigation, however, did not find any evidence that she was bullied for her race or disability.
The recent damages claim accuses the school district of producing “an environment where her assailants are rewarded for ‘unjustified intrusions on [her] personal security’ while she continued to be isolated, frustrated by her disabilities and distinctions and most of all, alone in a school charged with protecting her and teaching her.”
Foxboro Elementary School, its principal Chris Whitaker and its director have been named as defendants in the case.
The claim document noted that Tichenor was “deprived of a fair, free and appropriate education as guaranteed in Article X of the Utah Constitution,” the Standard-Examiner reported. Additionally, Tichenor’s “right to due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was violated by the alleged failure to use programs and funding that ws available to improve her security, mental health and bodily integrity.”
The claim document also noted that in September 2021, Tichenor-Cox started reporting the incidents to her daughter’s school while also declaring that her daughter experienced racial taunts, taunts about her hygiene, physical attacks and offensive comments about her clothing and hairstyles.
The claim accused the school of failing to reprimand Tichenor’s alleged bullies. They would purportedly be rewarded instead, leaving Tichenor feeling “alone in a school charged with protecting her and teaching her.”
In one instance, the claim document said a boy, only identified as “hoverboard boy,” used the “n-word” in the girl’s presence, which Tichenor-Cox reported to the school. The claim alleged that instead of punishing the boy for using a racial slur, Whitaker told him to sit with Tichenor during breakfast, an act interpreted by the girl as a reward for her alleged bully and not a deterrent.
The claim document also stated that Tichenor “could easily recognize” that her parents’ attempts to find assistance and support “were being systematically ignored.”
“We hope that all the government benefits and services that are available to anyone else will be consistently made available to people in Izzy’s situation,” Ayres told The Standard-Examiner about the claim’s goal.
While the Davis School District extended its “sincere, heartfelt condolences” to the girl’s family, the district refused to give further comments until they “carefully review it and confer with legal counsel.”
“As we approach the anniversary of her passing, we are mindful of the impact she’s left on the community,” the school district wrote. “We love Izzy and our focus and energy remain devoted to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students.”
Tichenor’s death came weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice released its investigation that found that the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, and its officials deliberately ignored the complaints of hundreds of Black and Asian American students who were constantly harassed.