South Carolina

No charges in case of 5th-grade girl who died after a classroom fight in SC

Friends and family members celebrate the life of 10-year-old Raniya Wright

Raniya Wright was laid to rest after a celebration of her life at Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro.
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Raniya Wright was laid to rest after a celebration of her life at Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro.

The death of a 10-year-old girl two days after a classroom fight in a South Carolina elementary school was the result of natural causes, and no charges will be filed, the prosecutor leading the investigation said Friday morning.

Investigators released their preliminary findings in the death of Raniya Wright during a press conference Friday, broadcast live by WCSC. Raniya had a neurological problem that ultimately caused her death, Solicitor Duffy Stone said.

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Despite the autopsy result, attorneys for Raniya’s family say they are pursuing their own investigation and accused the school of not addressing issues with bullying.

Raniya died two days after a fight at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Stone said Raniya had been to the doctor seven times complaining of headaches and dizziness over the past two years. A team of specialists at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston made the conclusion on Raniya’s cause of death, he said.

Stone and Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland said there were no signs of trauma from the fight.

The two girls were pulled apart in five to 10 seconds by a teacher in the classroom, Strickland said.

“This does not appear to be a case of bullying,” the sheriff said, “This is a hard case to accept.”

A lawyer representing Ashley Wright, Raniya’s mother, said a classmate attacked Raniya from behind that day, March 25, punching her in the head and slamming her into a bookshelf.

Attorney Margie Pizarro spoke at the same press conference Friday morning, with Raniya’s mother standing by her side.

“This is not where the story ends,” Pizarro said, noting she is conducting her own investigation into what led up to the fight and what happened in the classroom that day.

She said Raniya was involved in two incidents with the same girl that day. “Colleton County School District will be held accountable,” Pizarro said.

Raniya was unconscious in the nurse’s office by the time paramedics arrived and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Charleston, about 50 miles away, investigators said.

Ashley Wright also spoke to reporters Friday, which was broadcast live by WCSC. “My child was healthy,” she said, and was very active.

She said Raniya had problems with the same girl for several weeks before the fight, to the point where she did not want to go to school. “My daughter loved school,” Ashley Wright said.

Both Pizarro and Ashley Wright said the girl, who is not named because of her age, had a history of violence. “She needs help,” Ashley Wright said.

Colleton Sheriff’s Office Major Jason Chapman, who led the investigation, said during the press conference, “We did not investigate the Colleton County School District for bullying.”

Chapman, who said he has a child at the same school, said, “Bullying did not play a part in this incident.”

Since Raniya’s death, her family and the community have criticized investigators and the school system for not sharing more information about what happened.

After a Colleton County School Board meeting this week, Raniya’s grandfather said the school did not address the bullying problems.

“The system failed her,” grandfather Ernie Wright said, WCBD reported. “It took a death for you to realize that the system is broken? It shouldn’t have taken a death.

“My daughter called the school like two weeks about the same girl and the school didn’t do anything about it,” he said, according to WCBD. “It’s not like this happened yesterday, this was going on two weeks before it happened.



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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.
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