Suicide by Bullying - Death of bullied Utah girl draws anger over suicides, racism
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Suicide by Bullying

Death of bullied Utah girl draws anger over suicides, racism


Story by BRADY McCOMBS

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Published on December 5, 2021 7:26 AM
 
DRAPER, Utah (AP) — When her 10-year-old daughter tried spraying air freshener on herself before school one morning, Brittany Tichenor-Cox suspected something was wrong with the sweet little girl whose beaming smile had gone dormant after she started the fifth grade.

She coaxed out of Isabella "Izzy" Tichenor that a boy in her class told her she stank after their teacher instructed the class that they needed to shower. It was the latest in a series of bullying episodes that targeted Izzy, who was autistic and the only Black student in class. Other incidents included harassment about her skin color, eyebrows and a beauty mark on her forehead, her mother said.

Tichenor-Cox informed the teacher, the school and the district about the bullying. She said nothing was done to improve the situation. Then on Nov. 6, at their home near Salt Lake City, Izzy died by suicide.

Her shocking death triggered an outpouring of anger about youth suicides, racism in the classroom and the treatment of children with autism — issues that have been highlighted by the nation's racial reckoning and a renewed emphasis on student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

The district, where Black and Asian American students account for roughly 1% of the approximately 73,000 students, initially defended its handling of the bullying allegations but later launched an outside investigation that is ongoing.

"When I was crying out for help for somebody to do something, nobody even showed up for her," Tichenor-Cox said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. "It just hurts to know that my baby was bullied all day throughout school — from the time I dropped her off to the time I picked her up."

Being autistic made it difficult for Izzy to find words to express what she was feeling, but her mother sensed her daughter was internalizing the messages from school. She asked her mother to get rid of the beauty mark and shave her unibrow. Her mother told her those features made her different and beautiful. She told her mother her teacher didn't like her and wouldn't say hi or help with schoolwork.

Izzy's mother, 31, blames the teacher for allowing the bullying to happen. Prior to this year, she said, Izzy and two of her other children liked the school.

Tichenor-Cox has also called out deep-rooted racism in the predominantly white state of Utah, where she said the N-word that kids called her when she was a child in the 1990s is still hurled at her children three decades later.

But she doesn't want fury to be her only message. She vows to make Izzy's life matter by speaking out about bullying, racism and the importance of understanding autism so that no other parent has to suffer like she is.

As she looked at a picture on her cellphone of Izzy smiling with fresh braids in her hair last May, Tichenor-Cox teared up as she realized that was her last birthday with her dear daughter who dreamed of being a professional dancer.

"No parent should have to bury their 10-year old," she said. "I'm still in shock.... This pushes me to get this out there like this. Mommy is pushing to make sure that this don't happen to nobody else."

Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams declined to provide an exact timeline on the investigation, reveal the employment status of Izzy's teacher or respond to any direct accusations.

He did say in a statement Wednesday that an independent investigative team is working "urgently" and that findings will be released when finished. In a previous statement from last month, when the district pledged to do an outside investigation, it said it would review its "handling of critical issues, such as bullying, to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all."

The Justice Department investigation uncovered hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets over the last five years in the district. The probe also found physical assaults, derogatory racial comments and harsher discipline for students of color.

Black students throughout the district told investigators about people referring to them as monkeys or apes and saying that their skin was dirty or looked like feces. Students also made monkey noises at their Black peers, repeatedly referenced slavery and lynching and told Black students to "go pick cotton" and "you are my slave," according to the department's findings.

The district has agreed to take several steps as part of a settlement agreement, including establishing a new department to handle complaints, offering more training and collecting data.

Tichenor-Cox told the AP she doesn't trust the district's investigation and said the district has zero credibility. Instead, her attorney, Tyler Ayres, hired a private investigator to do their own probe as Tichenor-Cox considers possible legal action.

She and Ayres also said the Justice Department is looking into what happened with Izzy. The agency would not say if it's investigating what happened to Izzy at the school but said in a statement Wednesday that it is saddened by her death and aware of reports she was harassed because of...

Bullying is an undesirable, attacker behavior that often happens among school aged children and adolescents. This behavior is repetitive. Both children who bulled may have serious mental problems. There are different types of bullying such as verbal, social, physical and cyber. Bullying and suicide are considered together when the cause of suicide is attributable to the victim having been bullied, either in person or via social media. Writers Neil Marr and Tim Field wrote about it in their 2001 book Bullycide: Death at Playtime.

Suicide is completed when the victim cannot escape the chronic effects of bullying. They cannot find a way to cope that protects them and helps them to overcome their suffering. From this long-term carrying of emotional and physical scars, the individual develops feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. The bullying seems it cannot be stopped for the victim and thus, the result of suicide.

Up till now, there is little evidence that the effects of bullying participation in childhood on adult functioning, even as a bystander, have been considered as aetiological or remediable factors by adult mental health services in their responses to suicidal behaviour.

Legal analysts criticise the term bullycide because it links a cause with an effect under someone else's control. Research shows those who are bullied have a higher probability of considering or performing suicide than those who are not. However, there are victims of bullying who do not end up committing suicide, and some of them share their experiences in order to send a positive message to bullying victims that suicide is not the only option.

Some of the risk factors associated with suiciding from bullying are childhood trauma, nutritional deficiencies, and previous mental health issues. Such as, depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Consequently, the victim becomes more prone and susceptible to a distressful bullying experience. Those well adjusted may also be affected by bullying. Such as, developing a mental health disorder, like depression. Or start rehearsing the thoughts of suicide.

As bullying is most often found in children and adolescents. In Erick Erickson's stages of psychosocial development, stage five, "identity verses role confusion." Occurs during the teenage ages of 12 to 18. This stage depends on the achievement of fidelity in a social group. Leading to stronger sense of identity from the interactions of that social group. Bullying may disrupt the individual's success in creating meaningful relationships in a social group. Insecurity is common in this process of finding an identity. Thus, leading to confusion. A bullied victim in this stage will struggle upon being rejected by their peers and loss of self if none another group is established in this individual's life. Also, the victim may fall short of seeking more social interactions. That will aid in the process of suicide.

Prevention of suicide from bullying for children and adolescents can be alleviated from the support of parents. Being engaged in the child's life. Such as, daily activities, school, or work. Being aware of the child's friends. Changes in the child's life. Such as, lowered grades, physical bruises, or scars, eating and sleeping habits. Sharing personal social experiences, may lead the child to be open in their social experiences. These can help a child suffering from bullying.

In 2010, the suicides of teenagers in the United States who were bullied because they were gay or perceived to be led to the establishment of the It Gets Better project by Dan Savage. The online event, Spirit Day, was created in which participants were asked to wear purple as a symbol of respect for the deceased victims of bullying, particularly cyberbullying, and to signify opposition to the bullying of the LGBT community.

The Centers for Disease Control states that almost 45,000 deaths occur from suicide each year. There are about 100 non-fatal suicide attempts to every 1 suicide. A little over 14% of students in high school consider suicide and approximately 7% of them attempt suicide. Students that are bullied are around 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying. 10 to 14 year old teen girls are most likely to commit suicide based on this study. According to ABC News, nearly 30% of students are either victims of bullies or bullies themselves and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because they are scared of being bullied.

Cyberbullying Cyberbullying is a form of aggression by using the internet and/or electronic communication, such as mobile phones, e-mail, and text message, to cause humiliation, terrorization, embarrassment, and/or psychological distress to a peer. In comparison to verbal bullying, a research study showed that adolescents who reported cyberbullying were 11.5 times more likely to have suicidal ideation, while those who have reported verbal bullying were only 8.4 times more Iikely. In another study, 75% of adolescents who experienced cyberbullying presented with higher suicidal ideation than those who have experienced verbal bullying.

Amanda Michelle Todd was a victim of cyberbullying and committed suicide. On October 19th, 2012, at the age of 15, from British Columbia, Canada. She posted a video on YouTube, sharing her story of being stocked, used, being bullied at school and by online comments. Her story escalated when the online comments, cyberbullying, told her that she should have used another bleach to kill herself. This lead Todd to hang herself, not long after.

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