Izabel Laxamana: A Community Left Grieving. Where Do We Go From Here?

The Memorial At Izabel's Middle School

The Memorial At Izabel’s Middle School

It isn’t usual for Tacoma Stories to do more than one article about the same topic. It’s also not usual for someone other than me to write an article for Tacoma Stories. But the last few weeks have been unusual. There has been much talk and controversy about the suicide of Izabel Laxamana. Up until now, I’ve refrained from using the 13-year-old girl’s name. However, since it’s been used everywhere from the Washington Post to Seventeen Magazine, I think my refrain is fairly useless at this point.

I received the following article earlier today from a local psychotherapist. Her name is Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph. D. She’s not just writing about Izabel. She’s writing about all of our children.

Before we get to the article, I just want to say if you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, you can call the National Suicide hotline any time day or night for free and anonymously at 1-800-273-8255.

Here’s Dr. Fracasso:

Not even three weeks after her death, one thing that is clear is that there is a whole community spanning globally now left grieving the tragic loss of Izabel Laxamana. The public response of support and compassion has been tremendous, evoking many strong and mixed emotions. As a psychologist, I, like many others, sat dumbfounded and deeply saddened as this case unfolded, hoping that the investigation would reveal some answers into the “how” and “why” behind this. In the end, the police investigation that closed last week that revealed no wrongdoing by the father and left more questions than answers. So where do we go from here?

While no legal action may be taken for the real Izabel, one thing that lives on is the iconic Izabel created by the facebook page, “Justice for Izabel.” Whether her suicide was due to abuse or not may never be answered since Izabel can no longer speak for herself. I only hope that those who may have further information about this case will gain the courage to speak up if there are facts that need to be investigated further. However, we must move on as a community and society and focus our efforts on preventing future tragedies like this from occurring. I for one am not interested in reading about media defending their positions and pointing fingers at one another due to the reporting of this case, nor am I interested in reading about what “could have” or “should have” been done. What I am interested in seeing is abuse awareness and prevention efforts launched in the local and global community so that not one more child is lost in this manner. We need to give our children a voice. We need to take them seriously when they come home and try to tell us things that are happening to their friends that do not seem right. Education about what abuse is and how it operates needs to be put forth in our schools, which encourages friends or family members to speak up. Abuse can only exist if those suffering from it and those who witness it are scared silent, and this needs to end. We need to stop this hideous cycle of abuse, bullying, and public shaming. Each of us on an individual level can start by speaking up when we observe anything out of the ordinary with a child.

If you or your children observe something going on that is not right, report it. Also, we need to take a look at our current Child Protective Service (CPS) measures and find more effective ways to protect our children when a report is pending. As legislation is right now, children are generally left in the home when a report is pending investigation and some investigations take months to resolve.

From a psychological perspective, it is my hopes that practitioners band together to launch efforts to educate our youth and society about classic signs of abuse and to end this silence and fear about speaking up. In this sense, we can get “Justice for Izabel” by insuring that we make changes in our current systems to minimize the chances of something like this happening again.

Blaming and pointing fingers at each other and individual agencies is not an effective use of energy. Rather, we need to band together with police departments, school districts, legislation, and media who have the power to make change, and say “Enough! We are not losing one more child!” Let’s end the silence!

My deepest condolences to all who have been touched by this case…especially friends, family, and others who knew her.

If you would like to open up further dialogue about this, I can be contacted at doctorfracasso@hotmail.com. Please note, I am not interested in rehashing the details of this case. If you have further information, report it to the proper authorities. However, I do welcome suggestions on how social change efforts can be put in place to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring.

My sincerest regards,

– Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

Dr. Fracasso is a psychotherapist based in Kent, Washington. She has served as a Psychologist with the State of Washington, Department of Social and Health Services, Developmental Disabilities Administration at Rainier School. She’s also worked as Case Manager with the City of Seattle, Office of Aging and Disability Services.

I’d like to thank Dr. Fracasso for sharing her thoughts with us. It’s important to talk and we’re interested in your comments. I’ll be approving any comments that aren’t insulting or accusatory.

– Jack Cameron

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27 responses to “Izabel Laxamana: A Community Left Grieving. Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. When I sought help for my own clinical depression over the years, I found staff at Tacoma area schools woefully unprepared on how to address the situation, who to direct me to on staff to discuss it or what resources were in the immediate community. I say, let’s start there.
    Information resources for those in direct contact with students would be immensely helpful , if there aren’t any. If there are some, we need to reevaluate what is useful and what isn’t.

    • Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

      HI Mimi,
      Thanks for sharing your personal experience, as this is good information to share with those in local school districts. I cannot speak for them, nor am I aware of current measures in place in our local schools as of present. So hopefully this dialogue will facilitate an open discussion about all this so that we can all learn and take an honest look at what is working and what is not working, while finding ways to improve it. Again, thank you for your thoughtful response.

  2. The media have an important role here. We can not ask friends, neighbours and relatives to speak up if on the other hand we accept that is normal and decent for media to stay silent. And this they do, out of misguided respect for privacy and mis-understood decency. To respect the privacy of a child abuser is to allow the abuse to continue, I certainly agree with you on that. But if we want to change something, then we must talk openly and frankly, and not in a vague, general way, on the specific case of Izabel. With all the painfull details. We owe it to her to not let her death be in vain. Credits for Jack Cameron who was first to break the conspiracy of silence.

  3. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Hi Jaap,

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts about this and how media plays a pivotal role. I think this is another area that needs to be examined as well, especially since media has power to lead and guide society, particularly as tragedies are unfolding. Again, as I shared above, while I cannot speak for media venues, I do hope that those who hold leadership positions within media will join in this dialogue and share more about what current ethics and reporting guidelines are, and how this can be examined further, weighting pros and cons. In the case of Izabel it was rather unusual since this case contained allegations of potential “public shaming” blended in with suicide. I recall reading several articles that addressed the fact that suicide is generally not reported by media, but that this case was so unusual that it deserved a voice. Before we knew it, it went global, and the rest is history. I suspect one of the main reasons behind media’s resistance to report on suicides is because they do not want to encourage others to do the same, but there are many other factors that may come into play that I am not aware of since I am not in the field of media.

    In closing, thank you for expressing your opinion, as the purpose of this dialogue is to facilitate open dialogue from the public and officials so that we can improve our efforts in the future. This case has many things we can learn and grow from as a society, and I want to create a safe and open space for everyone to voice their positions.

  4. Dear Dr. Fracasso,

    You wrote that police investigation “revealed no wrongdoing by the father”.

    The police, however, CONFIRMED that it was her father who orchestrated the public shaming of Izabel.

    When you force a 13-teen-year old girl to go to school with her once long hair badly chopped short with ONE LONG STRAIN left as a sign of punishment, it is intentionally a PUBLIC shaming of the child.

    That is why “school officials helped her French braid her hair” to mitigate her public shaming. The next day she jumped to her death.

    Is your message to kids that it is OK for parents to publicly shame children the way Izabel’s father humiliated her in school? Do only videos released on the Internet count as public shaming of kids — not what is witnessed by dozens of school children?

    If we are unwilling to say the father did anything wrong, then is there any point in trying to reach out to children who are currently treated in similarly cruel manner by parents and who may be intently reading this very blog?

    Best regards,

    – David

    • Bravo David! I was trying to think of the best way to reply to Dr. Fracasso writing that “the police investigation revealed no wrongdoing by the father” and “I am not interested in rehashing the details of this case”. You said it perfectly and spoke for so many of us. I live in Connecticut, far detached from this case, but I still ache for this poor girl.

    • Thank you, David, for your perceptiveness.

      To the police and some school administrators, it’s just another teen suicide death and they move on. It’s far easier for them to essentially slander Izabel after her death as a “troubled teen” or explain her decision to jump from a highway overpass because she was “ashamed” of her actions that to look into what led to those feelings.

      From news reports, it appears the hair-cutting stemmed from school officials violating Izabel’s privacy in the first place because they informed her parents she sent a pic of herself to a boy wearing a sports bra. Really? A sports bra is now child p0rn all of a sudden? But I’m sure the school official who squealed to her parents isn’t having trouble dealing with this. No doubt that official is being told the same thing the police and school officials are saying: troubled teen, blah blah blah.

      It might be helpful for people to understand the law.

      Washington law states:
      – – – – –
      RCW 26.44.020

      Definitions.

      The definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

      (1) “Abuse or neglect” means sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or injury of a child by any person under circumstances which cause harm to the child’s health, welfare, or safety, excluding conduct permitted under RCW 9A.16.100; or the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for or providing care to the child. An abused child is a child who has been subjected to child abuse or neglect as defined in this section.
      – – – – –

      (16) “Negligent treatment or maltreatment” means an act or a failure to act, or the cumulative effects of a pattern of conduct, behavior, or inaction, that evidences a serious disregard of consequences of such magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to a child’s health, welfare, or safety…
      – – – – –

      RCW 9A.16.100 states:

      Use of force on children—Policy—Actions presumed unreasonable.

      It is the policy of this state to protect children from assault and abuse and to encourage parents, teachers, and their authorized agents to use methods of correction and restraint of children that are not dangerous to the children. However, the physical discipline of a child is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher, or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child. Any use of force on a child by any other person is unlawful unless it is reasonable and moderate and is authorized in advance by the child’s parent or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child.

      The following actions are presumed unreasonable when used to correct or restrain a child: (1) Throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child; (2) striking a child with a closed fist; (3) shaking a child under age three; (4) interfering with a child’s breathing; (5) threatening a child with a deadly weapon; or (6) doing any other act that is likely to cause and which does cause bodily harm greater than transient pain or minor temporary marks. The age, size, and condition of the child and the location of the injury shall be considered when determining whether the bodily harm is reasonable or moderate. This list is illustrative of unreasonable actions and is not intended to be exclusive.
      – – – – – –

      If cutting off a teenage girl’s long hair down to neck length, make a video of it while taunting her about it and sending her to school like that to purposely shame her isn’t “unreasonable”, then Washington state should just chuck the whole section of state law dealing with child abuse into Puget Sound.

  5. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Dear David and Jonathan,

    Points well taken and heard! The police investigation which resulted in bringing no charges against the father left many in a state of shock, and unease, to put it lightly, and I am in no way suggesting that I agree with or support the outcome of all this. What I am saying, however, is while there be no legal action taken in this case, is that we need to move forward to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring. One of the main reasons I felt propelled to write this article is because there were many red flags that popped out at me that warranted further investigation regarding potential abuse. Unfortunately, we may never know one way or the other now since she took her life, and whether there was an ongoing history of abuse or not. The school principle also had some red flags, according to police reports, that state a CPS report was filed a few days before her death. While I am not in a position to cast judge and jury on anyone, the fact that her hair was cut off, whether there a video or not, is a highly questionable form of punishment, leaning towards abuse in my book. Moreover, the fact that she felt so much shame in her suicide notes also is another red flag from a mental health perspective.

    But rehashing all of this seems a mute point, at this point in time, since the police have closed their investigation. So what do we do from here? Well, we can move forward to try to make social change in our systems and try to improve, and this requires joining forces with agencies who hold power, not going against them. Voicing anger repetitively and going around in circles in this case is not a wise use of energy…especially if it is only serving to do nothing but promote more anger and finger pointing at each other and specific agencies. If you would like to discuss ways we can impact and make change you are welcome to email me privately. As I stated in the article, I am not interested in bantering and hashing out the details of this case, and the obvious injustice that the popular opinion holds.

    Thanks kindly for your responses and for voicing your opinions. Points heard, and I do validate your positions.

  6. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to reply to this discussion and to send me emails with suggestions on your thoughts about areas that need to be examined further, and what can be done next. Some of the main things that have surfaced as a result of this discussion, and the tragedies from this case that I am observing so far are this:

    1) This has sparked global controversy over whether public shaming should be considered illegal or not. If so, how can change be made in our laws? What is a concrete definition of public shaming? Is it defined as anything that has intent to humiliate or hurt someone? Where is the line drawn?

    2) How can abuse awareness and prevention efforts be put forth in our schools? Many people suggested that further education about abuse along with more resources are needed in local schools. I too, agree that this is a good place to start.

    3) How can measures be implemented to better protect our children when CPS reports are pending?

    4) Many people suggested that we need to create a more open space to talk about suicide in this society, and that we need to step up prevention efforts.

    Please feel free to continue contacting me with further ideas via email. Also, if Jack is kind enough to keep this discussion thread open, I also welcome your further thoughts here.

  7. I think it is sad that the authorities have managed to sweep this under the rug. The media are silent, her friends have been intimidated into silence. The school is silent, the CPS is mute, her family remains as closed as an oyster. The police is silent, and very superficial and non-understanding with that..
    How can we say that we want kids to look for help and not commit suicide if we continue this conspiracy of silence? How can they trust us, if we adults and institutions keep covering each others backs? The only thing that can really help abused children is if we break this taboo. If we feel free to speak about it, in a specific manner and with all the details. And also feel free to adress other parents on their behaviour. This can not be done if we continue to hush up. The repect for privacy of the family is contradictory with the rights of abused children. Izabel’s rights in this case. The taboo of not medling with what happens behind the closed doors of the family home is still very strong. Too strong.

  8. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Hi Jaap,

    I think the abrupt ending to this case when the police investigation closed left many people confused, while still trying to process a variety of mixed emotions this case brought forth. People’s emotions swung from one pendulum to the other, strongly influenced by media’s coverage. The initial media reports that went global were swaying towards public shaming being potentially correlated with her suicide…noting that the video alone was viewed by over 4 million people in the course of a few days. The public response was immense, simply responding to viewing the video alone and the questions this brought forth over whether public shaming should be considered abuse or not. Clearly, many people felt very strongly in their views and deeply troubled after viewing the video.

    Then when the police reports came out and revealed the investigation was complete and no further action was being taken, many media venues then reported on this, moving the case in a different direction, thoroughly confusing people who had viewed that video and still had a plethora of raw emotions to process.

    From a psychological perspective, I feel it is important to keep this discussion open and to focus on improving things in various systems. In the case of Izabel, it appears there may have been many layers of prevention efforts that may have fell through the cracks, which is why I particularly feel propelled to focus on improving so that we can help other “Izabel’s” out there. But I have more questions right now then answers and do not have enough information to conclude anything, one way or the other, in the case of Izabel. This case has so many potential elements to it because it includes the shaming video (whether the intention was to publicly shame her or not), suicide, and the question over whether there was abuse involved or not.

    I also think that discussions were diverted and became off track when the focus became on proving whether her suicide was due to public shaming or not. As one poster above pointed out, the way the hair was cut was a form of punishment and was specifically meant to teach her a lesson. The fact a video existed added another layer to it, topped off by the fact the video went public.

    So the question becomes, should public shaming (with or without a video) be considered abuse? If so, as I mentioned above, what is a concrete definition? I see many areas that need to be considered and carefully analyzed before putting a law like this into action. For example, if public shaming becomes illegal and is considered abuse, would it mean people could be prosecuted for posting humiliating and obscene things to each other on facebook? Also, since media is international, would certain laws only apply in the US, or how would that work? And my list of questions goes on…

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your views, as there are many elements to consider in this case that can impact social change. I am optimistic that positive change can result from all there is to learn in this case. Also, media is listening, as Jack has provided us with this discussion thread and you are being heard. I want to send Jack a special thanks for providing this opportunity for all of us.

  9. I think it is strange that some people think the haircut would be an isolated case, and based on that say that Izabel overreacted. They fail to understand that there is always a pattern. Parents that behave like this don’t suddenly start doing that. There is always a long history of similar abuse. Also in Izabel’s case there are lots of indications that there indeed was such pattern of abuse. There are multiple sources for the story of the smashed guitar, the cut undergarments, the forced stepdown as a candidate for the school body (Her dad publicly humiliated her by anouncing at school that she was not allowed to run for the school body because she was being punished) and that she was forced to go to school in boys clothes. It is ridiculous that this is not investigated.

    https://www.change.org/p/tacoma-police-cps-and-media-investigate-the-death-of-izabel-laxamana

  10. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Hi “E”:

    Thanks for your anonymous posts. I think the tricky part to this lies within the current definition of child abuse in Washington State. See below link to WAC 388-15-009 titled “What is Child Abuse or Neglect?”

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=388-15-009

    Also see the Children’s Bureau: An Office of the Administration for Children & Families’ overview of “What is considered abuse in my state? How does my state define child abuse and neglect?”

    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/faq/can1

    I think this adds another layer of complexity to this case, because as it stands right now haircutting as a form of punishment is not clearly defined in our laws, which is one of many aspects in this case, let alone that each state has freedom to have a different definition of child abuse.

    As a side note: please note the date of her death is incorrect in the petition you shared above. She jumped off the bridge on Friday, May 29th and died later that night on May 30th.

  11. Imari Portillo

    Soy de Guatemala, psicoterapeuta y también he sido impactada con este caso; me extraño los resultados de la Policia, ni en mi pais con escasos recursos que tenemos se podria dar un informe como ese..Creo que muchos y me incluyo debemos encontrar respuestas que como usted dijo nos dejo más confundidos….Izabel se lo merece y otros niños y adolescentes también. Para mi hay muchos datos que se deben de comprobar, y desde luego que exista un buen equipo de orientadores y terapeutas que apoyen a los niños de esas escuela y a sus familias…

  12. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Hi Imari,

    Warm greetings fellow psychotherapist across the country in Guatemala! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reactions. This case has touched many people across the globe, as it is so shocking and there are so many elements to it that can impact social change. I agree that there is much work to do in improving our efforts to better protect our children so that not one more child is lost in this manner. This case breaks my heart and it is my hopes that efforts are launched soon to help other “Izabel’s” out there.

  13. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    This goes out to those who formed the above petition:

    I have read your petition and have several questions. I could not find any contact information for the person who created this petition, so I’ll address those questions here.

    1) Has anyone contacted the police department directly to gather more specific information about this case before launching a petition of this nature? For example, do you know if there were even any reports filed of alleged abuse in the case of Izabel by any witnesses? I recall seeing several anonymous comments by people on various social media avenues which suggested they had further information, but the police may not investigate things posted on facebook or follow social media comments at the end of articles published…especially if they have no way to contact people who make these posts. And If there were reports filed by people, were they checked out, or was there not enough evidence to conclude anything? What was the outcome? Were there even any reports filed? I think these are important questions to ask the police to clarify what was investigated previously before moving your petition forward.

    2) Has anyone contacted Child Protective Services (CPS) directly to find out the status of this case? Is it open? Is it closed? Is it even general practice for CPS to report on cases to public media venues, or are there ethical concerns and HIPPA laws that prevent them from releasing information?

    3) I noticed your petition is also addressing media. Are there specific media outlets or are you including all of media? Have you contacted media sources directly to ask why there has not been further reporting on this case? Is there even anything further to report? Also, what are the ethical guidelines for reporting on high profile cases? What about suicides? What about this specific case, since there were elements that involved suicide, potential public shaming, and controversy over whether shaming is considered abuse or not? I think these are important questions to gather more information on.

    4) What is the outcome you are hoping to achieve? To get the case re-opened? To change laws? To promote change in laws and for public shaming to be illegal? I’m unclear of your specific goals so if you could clarify that I would greatly appreciate it.

    5) Have you reviewed the Washington State definition of child abuse that I posted in the link above? This case occurred in Washington State and so it is important to be familiar with the laws in this state. If so, do you have a clear idea of which statue Izabel may fall under in the abuse definitions outlined in WAC 388-15-009? This is where I think things get a little tricky because shaming and haircutting as a form of punishment is somewhat of a grey area and is not specifically addressed in the laws. However, this is where I think this case does have impact to make change, especially since social media and shaming is a relatively new form of public issue on the rise.

    I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts, as I think its important to do your homework and to gather as much information as possible before launching a petition of this nature.

  14. Dear Cheryl,

    I am not connected with the petition and have not read it, but the following should be relevant:

    More than a week ago I sent emails to Tacoma police department asking if they have been involved regarding Izabel before, or if CPS has.

    I also pointed out the credible allegations by parents of hearing from their kids of previous abusive treatment of Izabel by her family and I asked if the police department looked into this.

    No one ever replied to me, even though I included several of their officers in public relations.

    I also sent emails to The News Tribune reporter and editor asking them to clarify some of their reporting and specifically included this question:

    “Police said Izabel’s most recent family troubles […]” — does the wording mean that Izabel had serious family troubles before and if so, was CPS or the police previously involved?

    I never received any response to these questions.

    All my emails were polite and factual.

    I wonder if you ever actually tried to obtain information from public or corporate entities that do not wish to answer them.

    They will simply not answer them.

    I also wonder why would you expect a local kid to be able to obtain any help regarding bullying by parents when everyone from the local law enforcement to the local corporate media evidently think emotional cruelty by parents toward a child is not abuse but a right.

    Best regards,

    – David

  15. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Hi David,

    First I am both moved and troubled by your efforts to be heard, and the lack of responses that resulted. You are so correct in that the first thing that must commense in making any sort of social change effort is to be first be heard and validated. I will share on a personal note that in my field, I am seriously going out on a ledge, not supported by many publicly, but whom are following and noting areas where this case can impact serious social change. Although it may not be popular public opinion right now in my field, they are listening, and I am confident that others may soon speak up.

    Thank you again for sharing your views, as I realize it takes some nerve to not only identify yourself, but to speak up about what you compassionately feel about. Rock on, David!!

  16. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    PS: if they’re kind enough, maybe we can ask the band, SweetKiss Momma, to play some shows to raise abuse awareness and prevent efforts about all this in the future. Note: the band from Puyallup has recently made European headlines, and is scheduled to play the White River in September, with notables such as Tim McGraw and Kid Rock.

    This said, what would you like to say to SKM? Any specific areas of social change that you can see or would like to ask the band? What are specific areas that you think may help Izabel? I will specifically address this to the band leader Jeff, but present it here as food for thought as well.

    See below link, as the boys rock!!

  17. Hi Cheryl,

    Though I didn’t author the online petition, I have read and signed it. I noticed that the author has already corrected the date of the incident as noted by you in one of your comments above, so if you have other suggestions I am sure that the author is reading this discussion page and will consider them. The brevity with which the Tacoma Police opened and closed this case, and the manner in which the police spokeswoman quickly blamed the young victim for making “poor choices”, are what prompted the petition.

    Thanks to you and Jack Cameron for keeping the dialogue open.

    Jonathan

  18. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Warm greetings Jonathan,

    Thanks kindly for sharing this, as I wasn’t clear who put the petition together initially, but did notice it was posted on a number of social media avenues. I am glad to see the date of her death was updated to reflect correct information, and as mentioned above, I did have several questions regarding how the petition was going to be presented. One of the many challenges in this case, since I believe it has moved to the genre of being considered “high profile,” is that if a petition like this is to move forward it needs to be succinct, tight, solid, and well researched. This case has impacted many agencies that have power to make change and I think there is a way to facilitate open dialogue with various agencies, versus coming across in an accusatory way, which clearly does not promote an environment to listen to each other and to solve problems. One thing I do not want to see is another media campaign launched, in response to the people who are launching this above petition, stating that is was based off “social media rumors.” Kids are listening and how we communicate with each other is serving as a role model.

    On this note, I will share that prior to speaking up and writing the above article I had been following the media coverage on all this and the comments that commenced at the end of articles. While it is certainly valid to feel anger, as that is a normal first response to grieving and responding to something tragic, I also became concerned because the amount of anger in some of the posts by anonymous people seemed to be promoting more of it, without any said solutions. I want to clarify that when I mentioned I was not interested in “bantering or rehashing the details of this case” in the above article, it was not that I was not open to discuss this case, but my position was more rooted in the fact I did not want to promote more finger pointing and anger. Rather, my goal is to promote a rational discussion about all this, without all the anger, so that effective solutions can be put forth. I hope this clarifies things, as I realize there are many people who were deeply moved by this case and feel passionate in their own ways about how to move forward.

    Thank you again for taking time to respond. Best wishes with the forthcoming petition. I hope my suggestions helped.

  19. I started the petition. I made no secret of it, I signed with my name and it is clearly visible beath the text. I agree that at some point it is nescessary to discuss in a general way what can be done to prevent drama’s like this, but first things first. I think it is strange and awkward to do that while Izabel’s case is still wide open and not solved. To proceed to discuss in a general way about abuse would amount to ignoring this fact. The fact that Izabel’s case is NOT solved, in spite of what the police says. I think we need to focus on how we can get the truth to surface. That is how we can do her justice, Only then can her sad story serve to prevent others from suffering the same fate. The way her story is now told, of girl who ‘messed up’, made ‘some poor choices’ was bullied mainly at school and ‘overreacted’ to a ‘disciplining’ by her father is simply a grave misconception of what really happened. It is not honest, very superficial and does not do Izabel justice. Neither can it serve as a foundation to discuss abuse in a general way. In the eyes of the public, the media and the police there was no abuse. So our efforts should be directed towards digging up the truth. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some of that has already surfaced via the FB page Justice for Izabel.
    https://www.facebook.com/justiceforizabel?fref=ts

  20. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    My warmest greetings Jaap, as I am familiar with your name having seen many comments of yours in various social media avenues.

    I first want to take a moment to commend you for expressing your thoughts. At the same time though, herein lies part of the issue I mentioned above, as opinions and emotions do not make laws, BUT, emotions and opinions can change laws and there is a distinct difference between the two. My sole purpose in even engaging in this dialogue is not to argue with people and their feelings, as I think it is consensus that popular public opinion is quite disturbed by viewing the video alone…even if no other potential allegations for information was pending in the case of Izabel. This is all clear!

    However, my point becomes crystal clear in this dialogue, which brings me back to my original point about how discussing this case needs to somehow shift to becoming an open topic versus an accusatory topic. Again, I commend you for your passion in pursuing this case, as that clearly emanates, but it also emanates and alienates those who may have differing opinions to communicate further, as noted simply in this dialogue with me, and I’m on your side! While I am a trained communicator and can handle all this while dishing out empathy and understanding, officials in positions in agencies who hold positions you are planning to address may not have this same patience or understanding, and may choose to shut down aggressive conversations of this sort in two seconds. My question becomes, if you alienate everyone, what then? And I am listening, so you are welcome to express yourself here and to practice with me, but you most likely will only get one opportunity to be listened to, taken seriously, and heard, by head officials who are busy balancing a gazillion other cases and concerns with limited timeframe.

    This said, I welcome you’re continued thoughts either via this discussion thread or via my email about how to work on communication efforts to be heard and taken seriously.

  21. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Greetings everyone,

    I wanted to take a moment to share a few quick updates on some thoughts, reflections, and ideas. I have received a few emails from people who are having a hard time letting go of this case with a mix of emotions, ranging from anger to sadness. Grieving is a process and these responses are all normal. While I can only do so much responding in email, I wanted to remind everyone that there are many mental health practitioners who are trained in grieving that you can reach out to in your local area. There are also grieving groups in many cities, and information about any in your area could be obtained by doing a “google” search.

    On another note, if anyone in the Tacoma area is interested, and has a place to throw a benefit/fund raising concert, please let me know. The band I mentioned above, SweetKiss Momma, has done many fund raising events in the past, along with many other local bands who have participated, and if an event comes to fruition I will certainly send an invite out to them. My thought is that I would like to donate any proceeds made from such an event to the Tacoma School District so that they can use the funds to increase whatever prevention efforts they best see fit. Whether this includes launching bullying prevention, abuse and awareness prevention, or suicide awareness would be up to them. While the funds made from such an event may not be much, it would at least be something to get the ball rolling.

    Your thoughts are welcome either here, or via email at doctorfracasso@hotmail.com.

    Have a safe and happy 4th of July everyone!

  22. Hi Cheryl,

    Hope you are well. I decided to write again via this page, after a long time.

    Here is why I think it is important to continue to draw lessons from Izabel’s sad story:

    When I was Isabel’s age (13), I was summoned to the principal’s office and shown juvenile drawings and naked artwork in a hardcover class textbook that had been assigned to me. I confessed to my “crime” and was given bathroom and other clean-up duties as punishment. I was NOT humiliated in front of my class and my parents were NOT informed. I was still allowed to compete for class president and I later graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a prestigious Ivy League university.

    In Izabel’s case, Giaudrone Middle School Administration made several poor decisions that sent this sweet girl’s life into a tailspin. After learning that Izabel had sent a photo of herself in workout clothes to a boy classmate, Principal Billy Harris summoned her parents and showed them the offending photo. Izzy was barred from competing for Associated Student Body (ASB) president and the situation quickly deteriorated from there. Her hair was chopped off and her father’s shaming video appeared on her own Instagram account the next day. Principal Harris called Social Services after viewing the shaming video, then pulled Izabel out of class to meet with one or more Social Services counselors, further embarrassing Izabel by singling her out.

    My own experience shows that there are better alternatives to summoning a child’s parents to come to the school, blocking a child from competing in an election, and pulling a child out of class for emergency counseling. Izabel was already an ASB member, so the school’s official explanation that her name was withdrawn because she failed to obtain parental permission to compete in the election seems weak and doesn’t sit well with me.

    http://www.tacoma.k12.wa.us/news/Pages/Statement-on-Giaudrone-by-Tacoma-Public-Schools.aspx

    Thanks for listening!

  23. Cheryl L. Fracasso, Ph.D.

    Dear Jonathon,
    Apologies for my delayed response, as I am just now being notified of this post. In all honesty, this story still haunts me and I’m a bit surprised it went cold so quick following the closure of the police investigation. I can only hope that justice has been unfolding in the background in the case of Izabel, as I have not seen any media on this case for quite some time, nor am I aware of any changes or follow-up that may have resulted. This is not to say that changes have not been made…rather, merely, I am not aware of them if they have occurred.

    As I reflect back on this, I truly think Tacoma was hit with pressure from mainstream media globally, as this case literally went viral overnight, and I have often times wondered if it may have impacted the results of a fair and balanced investigation. If you recall, local media reframed from reporting on this (aside from Jack here at Tacoma Stories, initially), while the story proceeded to hit venues such as Seventeen Magazine, and Washington post, to name a few. I have to honestly ask, did this in any way bias the outcome of this case? I don’t know that I have an answer to that, to this day, but I do hear you in that it still seems unreal that this case closed as abruptly as it did, still leaving many things unanswered. This said, I’m glad you still remember Izabel, as do I and many others, I’m sure.

    With much love and many memories of Izabel, as her life was not lived in vein. Again, thank you for your kind words and for keeping her memory alive.

    Cheryl

  24. Hi Cheryl –

    I grew up in the Seattle area but have since moved to California and only recently stumbled upon Izabela’s case by happenstance. I must say that I have been incredibly moved by her case and was frankly shocked in a lot of my research over how abruptly the case ended.

    From what I’ve gathered, her father still has never come out publicly to talk about his daughters’ death and any role he might have played in it. It’s been over a year since the tragedy; isn’t it the necessary step for the father to become an advocate against teen suicide/ anti bullying? He should be heading a movement in the Tacoma School System to make sure that things like this don’t happen again – hell, he has two more children who will be in the same level of schooling as Izzy before too long.

    Where is the man who chopped his daughters hair off and forced her to walk in shame among her peers as a method of punishment? He sounds like a grade “A” coward to me – You had enough passion about something, who knows what, to discipline your daughter in an inconceivable fashion but you don’t have that same level of passion in regards to preventing teen suicide?

    It sickens me just how much this has been swept under the rug. I feel bad for Izzy that she had such a poor representation of love, understanding, respect, ownership and emotion in a father.

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