WALTERBORO — One week after Raniya Wright was involved in a fatal fight with a fellow fifth-grader, an attorney for her father said the school district was previously alerted to a "pattern of behavior" and made aware of other "altercations."
At a press conference Monday outside of Forest Hills Elementary School, attorneys Mark Peper and David Aylor, who are representing Jermaine Van Dyke, Raniya's father, said their team has had conversations with the teacher and parents of students in the classroom at the time of the fight and that there was a concerning "pattern of behavior" the past four to five years.
"It would be fair to say the school was on notice (and) there were altercations occurring on a very regular basis ... between individuals in this specific classroom," Peper said.
Peper said his team spoke with the teacher who was in the classroom around the time of the fight but declined to elaborate on the content of the conversation and whether the teacher witnessed what happened. The teacher has not been publicly identified.
The other fifth-grader involved in the fight also has not been named, and it's still not clear whether that child will face charges. The student has been suspended, school officials have said.
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.
Van Dyke, with his daughter's makeshift memorial around the school sign in the background, said Monday that loved ones still don't know exactly what transpired before the deadly incident.
"I'm here today (to seek) justice for my daughter, to find out how and what happened, why it happened and who was involved," Van Dyke said.
At the press conference, Aylor said Van Dyke had not heard from school officials or law enforcement in the days since his daughter's death other than a brief meeting with Colleton County School District Superintendent Franklin Foster.
Sean Gruber, a spokesman for the school district, later told The Post and Courier that, although school officials could not offer specifics related to their own investigation, they continued to offer support to Van Dyke and loved ones. Gruber also said that school officials visited the home of Ashley Wright.
Meanwhile, funeral services for 10-year-old Raniya were announced earlier in the day. The funeral, which is open to the public, will take place at noon Wednesday at Saints Center Ministries, 106 Colson St. in Walterboro.
Raniya died March 27 after being critically injured in a fight in a classroom two days earlier, authorities said.
Colleton County deputies responded to the elementary school the afternoon of the fight and first encountered Raniya unconscious in the nurse's station, according to an incident report. She was taken to Colleton County Medical Center and then airlifted to Medical University Hospital in downtown Charleston.
Law enforcement and school officials have offered little insight as to what happened before and during the fight. Raniya's cause of death is still not known.
Although an autopsy took place Friday. Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone did not release the initial results and said they are waiting for results from several medical tests. He said the findings would not be released for several weeks.
Authorities have also declined to say how the fight unfolded and whether the students were supervised at the time.
Ashley Wright has retained Summerville attorneys Margie Pizarro and Myesha Brown, who said loved ones and the community demand accountability and transparency. Wright and Van Dyke are not using the same legal teams, though Peper said his office has been in regular contact with Wright's counsel.
Wright and Van Dyke are not married, Aylor said.
"Ashley has spent the last few days gathering with friends, family, and her community to make final preparations to lay Raniya to rest. She has busied herself with selecting the perfect dress and accessories, making sure that Raniya’s hair is styled perfectly, and deciding if Raniya will wear lace gloves or have her nails painted," representatives for the Wright family said in a statement Monday.
"She has been busy selecting the passage of scripture that wonderfully describes the love that Raniya gave and choosing the perfect song that mimics her personality. All tasks that no parent ever dreams they would have to undertake for their 10-year-old child."