The father of a South Carolina girl who died after a fight in her classroom last week made a public plea Monday for answers about what happened to his daughter.
Ten-year-old Raniya Wright died Wednesday, two days after she was injured when a fight broke out at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro – a town of 5,100 people about an hour’s drive west of Charleston.
A week after the fatal injuries, authorities still haven’t told Raniya’s father exactly what happened or what kind of injuries the fifth-grader suffered.
“I’m here today looking for justice for my daughter,” Jermaine Van Dyke told reporters at a news conference Monday. “I want just to find out what happened, how it happened, and who was involved.”
What we know about the fight and Raniya’s injuries
Raniya suffered serious injuries when a fight broke out March 25 in her classroom, school officials said. It’s not clear what led to the confrontation.
Officials said they stopped the fight, and Raniya was taken to the school nurse’s station. According to a sheriff’s office incident report, Raniya was unconscious when paramedics arrived and they took her to a nearby hospital. Later she was airlifted to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she died Wednesday.
Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said two fifth-grade students were involved in the fight, which authorities described as a “physical altercation” that did not involve weapons.
Authorities have not said exactly how Raniya was injured, or what kind of injuries she suffered.
Medical University of South Carolina performed Raniya’s autopsy on Friday, but results will not be released for several weeks, said the sheriff’s office and Duffie Stone, the solicitor for the 14th Judicial Circuit in South Carolina.
There have been no arrests, and authorities have not filed any criminal charges in connection with Raniya’s death, the sheriff’s office said. Stone said it was premature to assume there will be any criminal charges filed.
What the school district has said
The Colleton County School Board made its first comments about Raniya’s death after a special meeting Thursday to discuss the incident, CNN affiliate WCSC reported.
“Our board and district have received multiple requests for information,” School Board Chairman Tim Mabry said in a prepared statement, according to WCSC.
“Due to the ongoing investigation and student privacy laws, we cannot share specific details at this time.”
The lack of information angered attendees at the news conference and Raniya’s family.
“We’ve been extremely disappointed,” said Mark Peper, an attorney for Raniya’s father.
“We’ve made multiple attempts to contact both law enforcement and the school district. We heard late Friday evening from the attorney for the school district that was brought on board. Unfortunately, he didn’t have many answers.”
Grandfather says Raniya was a ‘good girl’
Hundreds of mourners clasped hands and prayed during a vigil for Raniya on Thursday.
Pink stuffed animals were laid at the entrance to Forest Hills Elementary School.
Raniya’s grandfather said the young girl never showed signs of violence.
“My granddaughter, she was a good girl … she was an usher in the church,” Ernie Wright told CNN. “As far as violence or anything like that, she never would do that.”
Death leaves a void ‘that will never be filled’
Raniya’s family said the beloved girl was a wonderful student.
“She loved to play basketball, spend time with her friends, and serve as a junior usher at her church,” said a family statement released by attorneys Margie A. Pizarro and Myesha L. Brown.
“The thing Raniya loved most of all, though, was being a big sister. 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,” the statement said.
The family called for transparency and accountability while alluding to problems at school.
“In Raniya’s name, the family is demanding change,” the statement said. “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.”