Davis School District looking to increase staff diversity amid bullying allegations

Local News

FARMINGTON, Utah (ABC4) — Tuesday night, the superintendent of the Davis School District spoke to reporters for the first time since 10-year-old student Izzy Tichenor died by suicide.

According to Izzy’s mother, this came after the young girl was relentlessly bullied at school for being a person of color and living with autism and dyslexia. Along with taking questions from reporters, the superintendent also made a suggestion for the school board to consider in the wake of the student’s death.  

“Ten to 14 percent of our student body are minority or special populations students,” Davis School District Superintendent Reid Newey said while addressing school board members.   

The district has more than 70,000 students. This means that 10 to 14 percent equates to 7,000 to more than 10,000 students who belong to the population Superintendent Newey referred to during the meeting.

Earlier this month, Izzy’s mother, Brittany Tichenor, sat down with ABC4 and through tears revealed that she lost Izzy to suicide. She explained that her daughter’s death came after months of reported harassment. 

“My child harmed herself and I don’t want nobody, another parent to go through what I have to,” Tichenor said.

This tragedy occurred just weeks after the United States Department of Justice released a report detailing a two-and-a-half-year investigation into the school district. The report is more than a dozen pages long. However, the conclusion of the report is boiled down into one statement that reads: “We found the school district was deliberately indifferent to the racially hostile climate in many of its schools.”  

The district is on a five-year improvement plan supervised by the U.S. Department of Justice. During this time the district has to implement specific changes like creating a race discriminatory department, creating an electronic reporting system for situations like bullying, and ensuring non-discriminatory policies are in place.   

During the school board meeting Tuesday, the school board president read a formal statement about the death of Izzy Tichenor and the resources available to students. This was the first time any school official spoke on the issue.  

Later on, during the meeting, the superintendent addressed the board members. He had a suggestion for another change the district can make to improve its culture in the wake of Izzy’s death. He recounted his experience working with different community leaders and an equity committee. He explained to help better improve the district’s culture, there needs to be a change in staffing “and have our students see reflected in their teachers and administrators their faces, the faces they see at home.”

Newey is not suggesting the removal of any staff, rather he said the district needs to put more emphasis on hiring diverse staff to better reflect the students’ backgrounds.   

After addressing the school board, the superintendent spoke to reporters for the first time since Izzy’s death. When asked if the district is taking the DOJ’s report and the subsequent death of a student seriously, he answered, “We want every student to leave us and have a great and successful life, and the most tragic thing we can do is not help further that, and or lose students along the way.”  

For now, Izzy’s family is trying to remember all the good times they had together.

Brittany Tichenor told ABC4: “I just want to spread Izzy’s love to other kids. I want to spread what Izzy had: her infectious love, her infectious laugh, to the other kids.” 

 If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there is always help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and available 24/7. Call the lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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