Four days after a school fight and the subsequent death of a fifth-grade student, central questions remained unanswered by Colleton County law enforcement and school district officials.
An autopsy was scheduled for Friday to determine the cause of death for 10-year-old Raniya Wright, a student at Forest Hills Elementary in Walterboro who died Wednesday morning, two days after the classroom incident.
During a press conference Friday afternoon, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone did not release the initial results of the autopsy and said they are waiting for results from several medical tests. He said the findings would not be released for several weeks.
In the rural South Carolina town of Walterboro, the death of a fifth-grade girl after a fight with another student has prompted shock and outrage, and left the community with more questions than answers.
Law enforcement and Colleton County School District officials have so far declined to say how the fight unfolded and whether the students were supervised at the time.
Meanwhile, Raniya’s family has retained Summerville attorneys Margie Pizarro and Myesha Brown, who said Friday that loved ones are joining the community in calls for transparency and accountability.
Raniya's mother, Ashley Wright, has said that her daughter was bullied at school and "nothing was done." Authorities and school officials have been mum on whether bullying contributed to the fatal incident.
"In Raniya’s name, the family is demanding change," the family's attorneys said in a statement. "Change that addresses the reasons that a child would openly express anxiety about attending school. Change that addresses legitimate fears that a child has while in the school building. Change that addresses bullying and teasing and the collateral damage when those behaviors go unchecked.”
Before her daughter died, Wright on Tuesday posted a photo on Facebook of Raniya in a hospital bed with breathing tubes and medical tape on her head. The girl was unresponsive, she said.
An incident report said staff at Forest Hills Elementary called 911 around 1 p.m. Monday to report that a student had collapsed. Authorities found Raniya unconscious but breathing in a nurse's station.
She was transported to a local hospital and later airlifted to Medical University Hospital in Charleston, where she died Wednesday.
The school district said another fifth-grade student involved in the fight has been suspended. The student has not been publicly identified.
No arrests have been made and no criminal charges have been filed, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
During the Friday afternoon press conference, Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland said it was "premature" to determine if criminal charges would be pending.
The school district deactivated its Facebook page Wednesday after announcing Raniya’s death so officials could “better focus on providing the care that our stakeholders need at this time.” Statements from the superintendent, the school board chair and Forest Hills Elementary principal have been posted on the district’s website.
“We ask for the community's help in preventing the spread of speculation and rumors, and we want to thank the entire Colleton County community for your patience and support,” Superintendent Franklin Foster said in a statement that he read to residents and reporters Thursday after the school board discussed the incident behind closed doors.
Residents who attempted to seek answers at that board meeting, and others who attended a vigil Thursday evening, said rumors are rampant in the community. One resident, Wendell Lyons, said many are left wondering whether a teacher was in the classroom and why no adult intervened before it was too late.
District spokesman Sean Gruber did not return to messages or emails seeking comment Friday.
Meanwhile, the family’s attorneys said they are focused on uncovering answers while Raniya’s loved ones plan her funeral services.
She is remembered as a “wonderful student” who loved being a big sister and served as a junior usher at her church.
“Raniya’s untimely passing leaves a void in this family that will never be filled, and her family is struggling to make sense of the incident that took her life,” said the statement from the family’s attorneys.
A 5th-grade girl died after allegedly being involved in a school fight Monday, and the South Carolina town of Walterboro is reeling and looking for answers. Some, including the girl's mother, say bullying is out of control in the schools.