Friday, February 3, 2023

Terrified Utah girl’s death raises suicide and racism

DRAPER, UT (AP) – When her 10-year-old daughter tried to spray herself with air freshener one morning in front of school, Brittany Tyhenor-Cox suspected something was wrong with the cute little girl whose beaming smile faded after she started the fifth. grade.

She convinced Isabella “Izzy” Tyhenor that a boy in her class told her that she stinks after their teacher instructed the class to take a shower. It was the latest in a series of bullying aimed at Izzy, who was autistic and the only black student in her class. Other incidents, her mother said, included harassment over her skin color, eyebrows and a mark on her forehead.

Tyhenor-Cox informed the teacher, school and district of the bullying. She said that nothing was done to improve the situation. Then, on November 6, at his home near Salt Lake City, Izzy committed suicide.

Her shocking death sparked a wave of anger over youth suicide, racism in the classroom, and the treatment of children with autism – issues that were highlighted by national racial assessments and increased attention to student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Utah, the suicide also heightened questions about the Davis School District, which was recently reprimanded by the Justice Department for failing to address widespread racial discrimination.

How to find help

If you have suicidal thoughts or are worried about someone who might be, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 800-273-TALK (8255); You will be directed to your local crisis center where professionals can guide you through risk assessments and provide resources in your area. More information: suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Or contact Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 for free 24/7 crisis counseling. More information: cristextline.org.

The district, which has approximately 1% of its approximately 73,000 students, has black and Asian American students initially defended its prosecution of bullying charges, but has since launched an external investigation that is ongoing.

“When I called for help to get someone to do something, no one even came for it,” Tyhenor-Cox told The Associated Press this week. “It just hurts me to know that my little one was bullied all day at school – from the moment I left her to the moment I took her.”

Due to autism, Izzy found it difficult to find words to express what she was feeling, but her mother felt that her daughter was absorbing messages from school. She asked her mother to get rid of the beauty mark and shave the unibrow. The mother told her that these traits make her special and beautiful. She told her mother that her teacher did not like her and did not say hello or help with her studies.

Izzy’s 31-year-old mother accuses the teacher of being bullied. She said that until this year Izzy and her two other children liked the school.

Tyhenor-Cox also called for deep-rooted racism in the predominantly white state of Utah, where she said the “N” word that children called her when she was a child in the 1990s is still being thrown at her children for three decades. later.

But she doesn’t want rage to be her only message. She vows to make Izzy’s life meaningful by talking about bullying, racism, and the importance of understanding autism so that no other parent suffers the way she does.

When she looked at a photo on her mobile phone last May of Izzy smiling with fresh braids in her hair, Tyhenor-Cox shed tears when she realized it was her last birthday with her dear daughter who dreamed of becoming a professional dancer.

“No parent should bury their 10-year-old child,” she said. “I’m still in shock. … It pushes me to do it like this. Mom tries to prevent this from happening to anyone. “

Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams did not respond to questions about the investigation, the employment status of Izzy’s teacher, or any direct accusations. Instead, he referred to a November 12 statement in which the district pledged to conduct an external investigation to analyze its “handling of critical issues such as bullying to ensure a safe and supportive environment for all.”

A Department of Justice investigation has identified hundreds of documented uses of the word N and other racial epithets over the past five years in the county. The investigation also found physical assaults, derogatory racial comments, and harsher punishment for students of color.

Black students in the neighborhood told investigators about people who called them monkeys or monkeys and said their skin was dirty or looked like feces. The students also shouted like monkeys to their black peers, repeatedly referred to slavery and lynching, and asked black students to “go pick cotton” and “you are my slave,” according to the department’s findings.

The district agreed to take several steps under the settlement, including setting up a new complaints department, providing additional training and data collection.

Tyhenor-Cox told AP that she didn’t trust the county’s investigation and said she didn’t trust the county. Instead, her lawyer, Tyler Ayres, hired a private detective to conduct his own investigation, as Tyhenor-Cox thinks legal action is possible.

She and Ayres also said the Justice Department is looking into what happened to Izzy. The agency did not say if it was investigating what happened to Izzy at school, but said on Wednesday that it was saddened by her death and was aware of reports that she was harassed because of her race and “disability.” The department said it is committed to ensuring that the school district meets the plan set out in the settlement.

Youth suicide rates in Utah have stabilized in recent years after an alarming surge from 2011 to 2015, but the rate remains sharply higher than the national average. The state’s suicide rate per capita in 2020 was 8.85 suicides among children aged 10 to 17 per 100,000, compared with 2.3 suicides per 100,000 nationwide in 2019, the latest year for which data are available. …

A tribute to Izzy is scattered across social media under #standforizzy. Basketball team Utah Jazz honored her at a recent game, and players Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles, who have an autistic son, expressed dismay at the incident, calling it “disgusting.” Other parents from the school district sent letters to the school board describing “the district’s neglect.”

Tyhenor-Cox and her husband Charles Cox have five more kids to focus on, so they do whatever they can to deal with their grief, trying to remember the sparkle Izzie has brought to their lives over the decade.

“I want to be remembered for how kind, beautiful, brilliant and intelligent she is,” Tyhenor-Cox said. “Because if I keep thinking about what happened, it will just bring me back, and I try to be strong for her.”

Nation World News Desk
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