After a 10-year-old girl took her own life in November, an internal investigation into her school found it was an environment in which ‘bullying…may be underreported, without investigation and no answer”.
Foxboro Elementary School in Farmington, Utah has become the center of attention after the death by suicide of 10-year-old Isabella Tichenor. Her mother claimed the daughter, who was both black and autistic, had been bullied for her race and her autism just before her death. These allegations sparked outrage from the surrounding community and an internal investigation was launched by the school district.
According to CNN, the results of that exam revealed that Isabella had been told by classmates and teachers that she smelled bad and needed to bathe. They found “no direct evidence” that the girl had been bullied specifically because of her race or her autism.
However, the team also included the caveat that “issues of race, disability and poverty sometimes intersect and, when they do, can further complicate already difficult situations. It can be very difficult to clear one of the others.
The report claimed that “when a female student told Izzy she needed to wash her hair, that comment could have been motivated by racial animosity, could have been an innocuous observation, or could have been a disguised insult to the poverty”.
More damning for the school was the review’s finding that it did not sufficiently protect Isabella from bullying. He claims the school dismissed the allegations and failed to investigate his mother’s allegations in a timely manner.
The report also found that staff at the Foxboro school had no “real knowledge” of the district’s definition of “bullying,” which helped create an atmosphere at the school in which ” bullying…might be under-reported, unstudied and unaddressed”.
The school reportedly received bullying complaints, but only created an official report months after the initial allegations – and after Isabella’s death.
Isabella’s mother claimed the same student harassed her daughter and at one point even told her he had a gun. School staff reviewed surveillance video and searched the student’s backpack three days after the allegations, but said they could not substantiate the allegations.
A week after that incident, Isabella’s mother filed another complaint, saying “the same student called Izzy’s sister the ‘N-word’ and touched her.” The school was also unable to confirm the incident after reviewing surveillance video and speaking with two “potential witnesses”.
Despite their findings, school officials deemed the incident seemed “more likely than not” and suspended the student. The school made the families of the two students sign a contract promising that the two would avoid each other.
Isabella died just weeks after the Justice Department publicly described a pattern within the school district in which Black and Asian American students had been bullied for years. He claimed authorities ignored complaints from parents and students. The agency began investigating the school in the summer of 2019, then released its report and a settlement agreement with the district.
The Davis School District released a statement saying it was “taking [the allegations] seriously”.
“We are committed to continuing our ongoing and thorough efforts to foster a welcoming environment for all students in the Davis School District,” he said.
The review team that compiled the report recommends that the school district train its staff to identify bullying and provide diversity and equity training sessions.
The report also recommends that Foxboro Elementary establish clear protocols and record keeping for bullying complaints.