A South Carolina community is reeling after the death of a fifth-grade student badly injured in classroom fight involving another student.
RaNiya Wright, 10, died two days after she was involved in a physical altercation at Forest Hills Elementary School in the town of Walterboro, officials with the Colleton County School District said. Wright was airlifted to MUSC Children’s Hospital on Monday, where she “gained her wings” on Wednesday morning.
District officials have called the young girl’s death a “tremendous loss.”
“Raniya was a wonderful student,” the district said in a statement. “She loved [to] write, spend time with her friends, play basketball and loved being a big sister. She was actively involved in her church as a junior usher. She will be missed greatly by her family, friends, and the entire school community.”
According to an incident report released by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, paramedics said they found the 10-year-old unconscious in the nurse’s office after receiving a 911 call about a student who had collapsed. Wright was in critical condition by the time she arrived at the hospital.
The extent of the girl’s injuries from the fight remains unknown, and her official cause of death hasn’t been determined. Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said his office will perform an autopsy as early as Friday, local station WCIV reported.
Police said no weapons were involved in the incident. As for the other student involved, district officials have suspended him/her indefinitely. Sheriff’s deputies did not arrest the student after the fight, as they’re still investigating.
Officials have remained tight-lipped about other details regarding the incident.
“She should be alive,” Dwayne Buckner, a local attorney, said of young RaNiya. “She shouldn’t have died.”
Speaking to WCIV, Buckner said he feels the other student should face severe punishment for her or her “egregious” actions leading to this outcome. He added that staffers at Forest Hills Elementary could also be held liable for Wright’s death if they’re found to have deviated from the school’s safety procedures.
“Whatever the situation is, we have an obligation to make sure our children go to school in a safe environment, and somehow we’ve failed at that,” Buckner told the station.
In a Facebook statement, the Colleton County School District extended “heartfelt condolences” to Wright’s family and said counselors would be on staff to help students, staff, and family members through this difficult time.
“It is very difficult to experience the death of a young person,” the statement read. “The well-being of our students and staff will remain a top priority as we deal with the emotions surrounding this tragedy. “Children may be coming home with questions and worries about this loss. Please feel free to contact the school counselors if you have an issue you would like to discuss.”
The district has since deactivated its Facebook page.
A GoFundMe page has been created by Wright’s family to help RaNiya’s mother, Ashley Wright, cover her daughter’s medical and funeral expenses. So far, the page has raised more than $40,000.
In a Facebook post, the girl’s mother said she believes bullying may have sparked the fight, which led to her daughter’s death, the Post and Courier reported.
“I have a lot to say,” Ashley Wright told a reporter for the newspaper as she waited at MUSC on Wednesday. “I just have to wrap my head around it all.”
A makeshift memorial has sprung up outside the school as several families stopped to place stuffed animals, a cross and other items in memory of young RaNiya.
An investigation into the incident remains ongoing.