WALTERBORO — Local authorities have given the public little news and few insights into the circumstances surrounding the death of 10-year-old Raniya Wright nearly three weeks ago.
Families in the Colleton County School District still know only the bare basics of what happened: On March 25, Raniya was involved in a fight in her classroom at Forest Hills Elementary and had to be airlifted to a hospital. On March 27, she died at Medical University Hospital in Charleston.
Raniya's mother and grandfather, Ashley and Ernie Wright, attended a Colleton County School Board meeting Tuesday night hoping for news and received none. An attorney representing the family spoke out as the board went into a closed-door meeting, demanding that the Wrights be allowed to attend, but the board left the Colleton County High School auditorium in silence.
"They're looking for a loophole where they're not going to be held responsible for it," Ernie Wright said as the board discussed Raniya's case in executive session. Ashley Wright, who has claimed that the district failed to address ongoing bullying problems, declined to comment Tuesday.
The board returned to the stage after the closed session and took no action regarding Raniya's case in particular or school safety in general. Parents hopped out of their chairs as the meeting ended.
"Are you kidding me?" one parent shouted from the crowd. "Not even a statement?"
In a brief public address at the beginning of the meeting, board chairman Tim Mabry offered no more information than he did at the board's last meeting on March 28, the day after Wright's death stunned this small city of about 5,000 people. Local law enforcement has kept quiet as well, citing an ongoing investigation and a pending autopsy report.
"We realize and appreciate that people want to know exactly what happened in that classroom in the incident at Forest Hills Elementary School on March 25, and whether that altercation contributed at all to her death two days later. The final investigative report has not yet been released by the solicitor's office or the Colleton County Sheriff's Office. We ask that the public reserve judgment until that report is released," Mabry said.
Tyeesha Aiken, a parent in the school district, held up a protest sign framed in gold glitter during the meeting with a slogan demanding that the school board fire Superintendent Franklin Foster: #FosterMustGo.
After the meeting, Aiken said she was shocked at the police presence. With about 75 members of the public in attendance, the Colleton County Sheriff's Office had at least a dozen deputies standing in the aisles during the meeting. They kept members of the press away from the front of the stage.
"Why are all the cops here? Because they thought it was going to be a Charleston school board meeting," Aiken said, referring to a March 18 confrontation where protesters shut down a school board meeting in the neighboring county.
"Because the people are angry," Aiken added. "Parents are angry, community members are angry, teachers are angry, and you've got people that need answers. When you see the heavy police, that's a sign that they want us to be intimidated."
The school board is scheduled to meet next at 6 p.m. May 21 at Colleton County High.