South Carolina

Mom of SC 5th grader who died after fight: ‘The situation at school was getting worse’

Two weeks after the fight that left her 10-year-old daughter dead, Ashley Wright appeared on “Good Morning America” and said she had complained to the school “numerous times” that her daughter Raniya was being bullied.

After a classroom fight March 25, paramedics airlifted Raniya from her elementary school in Walterboro, South Carolina, to a hospital in Charleston, according to Colleton County school officials. She died two days later.

In an interview with ABC News program “GMA” that aired Monday morning, Raniya’s mother said her daughter did not want to go to school that day. She said Raniya had been having problems with the same girl at school since the year before.

“I’m very upset with the school system, starting out, only because of the fact that I’ve been complaining about the person that she fought numerous times to them,” Wright said during the interview. “That’s what really breaks me down and makes me question to myself why nothing was never done up until now with this happening.

“I’m thinking they got it handled, and they failed me.”

The school district said last week that it will wait until the sheriff’s investigation is over before commenting.

“Our school district must ensure that we respect all laws regarding student privacy and confidentiality rights. We also do not want to release any statement that could jeopardize the continuing investigation. Once the investigation is complete, we will release a full report to the public,” the district said.

School officials and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office asked for patience in the investigation as they await autopsy results.

One student was suspended during the investigation, the sheriff’s office said in a statement, but “because this is an ongoing investigation, we ask that the community understands that the information we can share is limited.”

An incident report released by the sheriff notes there were no weapons involved and listed the fight as “simple assault.” The report listed another fifth-grade student as the suspect.

Last week, South Carolina state Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, who represents Walterboro, called the fight “a simple back and forth between two young girls,” The State reported.

There was a substitute teacher in the classroom when the fight started, Bright Matthews said. The teacher separated the girls and an administrator took them to the principal’s office, the senator said, according to The State.

”While in the principal’s office, one girl, presumably Raniya Wright, complained of a pain in her head and was taken to the nurse’s office, according to Bright Matthews,” The State reported. Raniya was unresponsive in the nurse’s office by the time paramedics airlifted her to the hospital, she said.

Lawyers for Raniya’s mother criticized the state senator for her comments. “We are disappointed that Senator Matthews would use the South Carolina Senate as the backdrop for her statements less than 24 hours before Raniya Wright is laid to rest,” they said, according to The State.

“We will continue to respect the investigative process and wait for findings as opposed to using the most prominent platform in our great state to offer a premature and incomplete narrative,” the statement said.

In a press conference April 1, the sheriff and the solicitor said it could take weeks before autopsy results come back with a cause of death. “At this time it is premature to assume whether there will be any criminal charges,” 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said during the press conference, according to McClatchy.

Raniya’s mother and father have hired separate law firms as they press investigators for more information.

Representing Raniya’s father, attorneys David Aylor and Mark Peper said in a statement: “To date, Jermaine Van Dyke has been provided no pertinent information from school officials or local law enforcement regarding the death of his daughter while in the custody and care of the school district.”

“He is distraught and frustrated by their lack of communication and refusal to allow him access to any videos or investigative findings related to this matter. Mr. Van Dyke would like to thank the community for their support and prayers during these very difficult times and vows to fight for the answers his family and this community deserves,” the statement said.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.