Community honors 10-year-old who died by suicide after reports of bullying, racism
NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah — Loved ones and community members remembered a 10-year-old Black Utah student who died a year ago Sunday as her family prepares to sue the school district for her death.
Fifth grader Izzy Tichenor died by suicide after her family said she was repeatedly bullied at Foxboro Elementary School because of her race, learning disability and the fact that she was experiencing homelessness.
The family said they reported the incidents to the school several times, but that the school failed to give Izzy and her family the proper resources for help or fully investigate the claims.
Sunday’s vigil came just a few days after the Tichenor family attorney filed a notice of claim in preparation for filing a lawsuit, asking for $14 million in damages from the Davis School District.
Milton Grimes, the attorney best known for representing Rodney King 30 years ago, flew in from Los Angeles to attend the vigil. He announced he is joining the case against the Davis School District.
But everyone including Grimes who spoke at the vigil made it clear that the court case and talking about what went wrong was not what they wanted to focus on.
Hugs were shared at the park pavilion next to Foxboro Elementary, many by Izzy’s family members as they told stories and shared their favorite memories through tears.
Izzy’s grandmother spoke about how she missed what her granddaughter would call “fuzzy hugs” from the bright, loving child who was always concerned about making other people happy.
“I would give anything in the world for just another hug,” Izzy’s grandmother said, as she got choked up.
Brittany Tichenor-Cox, Izzy’s mother, and Izzy’s sister Addison danced together in tribute in front of the crowd.
“Every day she’s with you in the heart, and I know on the day that made me cry,” Addison later said, speaking to everyone. “But always don’t give up because she’s by you every day and every night.”
Tichenor-Cox also stood up and spoke, saying that the last thing Izzy told her before Izzy’s death was how she was a great mom.
“‘Mom, you’re the best mom in the whole wide world,'” Tichenor-Cox remembered, of what Izzy said. “(She) said it three times and kissed me on the cheek, and I thought my baby was OK. And then to find out she wasn’t, it broke my heart.”
She said this has been a tough year for her.
“But I try to remember the good stuff about her, I really do, because she was nothing but warm,” Tichenor-Cox said.
Rae Duckworth, operating chairperson for Black Lives Matter Utah, wants people to amplify Izzy’s story. She talked about the importance of being proactive in battling anti-Blackness and understanding the existing resources available for mental health.
She and others who spoke talked about wanting to spread love.
“Standing for Izzy is going to be a very monumental thing, especially for children of color in Utah,” she said. “Us coming here, and gathering out of love is the most powerful thing that we are capable of.”
She urged people to participate in their community and connect with one another.
“When you go through trauma, you feel alone. And I told Brittany that we weren’t going to let her feel alone. So, today was proof. So we showed up, and that means a lot. It’s very empowering,” she said.
Mario Mathis, president of the Utah Black History Museum Bus, talked about his own journey with mental health and the importance of seeking help.
Beyond a vigil on the one-year anniversary of Izzy’s death, he stressed how crucial it is to think about Izzy every day and be proactive when it comes to children and mental health.
“We need to have this on our hearts every single day,” he said. “When we hear about bullying, racism, especially in our classrooms and schools, we need to be doing something about it.”
Mathis said it’s unfathomable to know what Izzy’s family went through when they lost her.
“It should never happen,” he said. “It should have never happened, and it should never happen again.”
Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.
- SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-33888)
- SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
- SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
- Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.
Other community-based resources
- NAMI Utah provides education, support and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers prevention programs, public education, support for loss survivors, and fundraising for research.
- Encircle Utah: LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center.
- Utah Pride Center empowers Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community.
- The Trevor Project: LGBTQ teen resource center.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health
- Latino Behavioral Health Services
- Center for Workplace Mental Health offers suicide prevention and response for employers.
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