(COLLETON, S.C.) — Lawyers for the family of Raniya Wright, the fifth-grader who died days after suffering injuries from a classroom fight with another student, said in a statement Friday that relatives were “struggling to make sense of the incident that took her life.”
“Raniya’s untimely passing leaves a void in this family that will never be filled. … They are awaiting answers to questions regarding the circumstances surrounding Raniya’s tragic death including was there appropriate supervision in the classroom, and what, if any, steps did school administrators take to intervene in the fight,” lawyers Margie Pizarro and Myesha Brown said in a statement Friday for the family.
Raniya, 10, died Wednesday morning after she was involved in what authorities called a physical altercation with another girl Monday at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro, according to the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
Pizarro and Brown said they would be requesting the complete investigative file and pertinent information from the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department and the Colleton County School District regarding Monday’s incident.
Authorities did not release the names of the students because they are younger than 17, but on Wednesday, the Colleton County School District identified the student who died as Raniya.
In its news release Wednesday, the district said Raniya was a wonderful student who loved to write, play basketball and spend time with her friends.
A staff member at the elementary school called 911 on Monday to report that a student had collapsed, an incident report released by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said.
When first responders arrived, the student was at the nurse’s station unconscious but breathing, the report said. She was taken to a medical center and later airlifted to the Medical University of South Carolina Childrens’ Health in Charleston, according to the Colleton County School District.
In a statement on its website, the district said that after the “fight” occurred in Raniya’s classroom, “school administrators promptly secured the scene, ended the fight and called emergency medical services to the school.”
The family said that she’d been unresponsive and in critical condition since the incident, according to ABC News affiliate WCIV-TV.
Raniya’s mother, Ashley Wright, shared her grief Wednesday in a public Facebook post, saying, “My baby girl has (gained) her wings.”
The family was planning her funeral Thursday.
William Bowman, a school board member, told WCIV-TV on Wednesday that the devastating incident had hit the community like a “hurricane.”
“We’re gonna have to look into situations, look at the situation, and see if there (are) any avenues that we can take in order to make our schools even safer,” he said. “We’re gonna continue to push, you know, to get funds to apply different safety measures or needed safety measures.”
No weapons were involved, said Shalane Lowes, a police information officer for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.
The district said students, staff and family members were getting guidance and counseling services.
The other student involved in the altercation was suspended from school “until the investigation is complete,” the school district said.
“Our community has suffered a tremendous loss. We are deeply saddened. … Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this family in the difficult days ahead,” the district said in a news release. “The district is cooperating fully with law enforcement as this matter is investigated.”
Lowes said police were still investigating the incident and that an autopsy for the victim was scheduled for Friday morning.
The Colleton County school board held an emergency meeting Thursday about Monday’s incident. Board member Tim Mabry said specific details from the discussion could not be shared because of the investigation and student-privacy laws.
Lawyers Pizarro and Brown said the Wright family joined the community in “its calls for transparency and accountability from the school district and all other individuals involved.”
“In Raniya’s name, the family is demanding change. 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,” said the statement from the family’s lawyers. “The family wishes to thank everyone for the many thoughts, prayers, and expressions of kindness that have been extended to them during this difficult time. They ask for continued prayer in the days ahead.”
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