A pathologist's review of fifth grader Raniya Wright’s death revealed that she had a rare birth defect that caused her death, rather than the fight that she was involved in minutes before she became unresponsive, officials announced on Friday. Her mother and attorney still question the role of teachers and the girl involved in the fight.
South Carolina solicitor Duffy Stone said that charges will not be filed because a forensic pathologist has determined that Wright had arteriovenous malformation (AVM), where arteries and veins are intertwined rather than separated and occasionally rupture. Raniya had this condition since birth, the report showed.
Stone said that AVM sometimes results in pressure, “the manifestation of these being headaches was something that was in Raniya Wright’s history…Thirteen days prior to this event, she was taken to the doctor … complaining of headaches.” Stone noted that Raniya had a history of going to the doctor complaining of headaches seven times in the past two years.
He stressed that the pathologist’s report showed that even though Raniya had a fight in school minutes before she became unresponsive, there was “no evidence of trauma either inside the body or outside the body … to indicate a fight of any magnitude contributed to this.” Stone said that is why he won’t file charges.
“According to the pathologist, these hemorrhages can take place at just about any time. …[The fight] did not have anything to do with the rupture,” Stone said. “It was a matter of time, unfortunately, that this would rupture,” Stone added that this condition can be in any part of a diagnosed person's body, but “in this case it was in her brain.”
Sheriff Andy Strickland said that all of the students in the class were interviewed, including Raniya, who spoke to officials before complaining about a headache and then being transported to the nurse’s office, where she later became unresponsive. “Neither student [involved in the fight] showed any physical signs of injury” and after the fight, it was “approximately 10 minutes later that Raniya advised ... that she had a headache," Strickland said, noting that she was then moved to the nurse's station.
Another official said that when she was taken to the nurse’s office, Raniya vomited, the nurse took her vitals, she vomited again and “that’s when she became unresponsive.”
Raniya died on March 27.
That official said that the investigation suggests that "bullying did not play a part in that incident," but Raniya's mother, Ashley Wright, said at a news conference on Friday that her daughter had a history of the other girl teasing and verbally attacking her for years.
"It was the same girl," Ashley Wright said. The mom said she had spoken to school officials multiple times since her daughter was in third grade about the ongoing issues with the other student.
"My child was never [in] trouble. My child wouldn't lift a finger to no one," she said.
"What's going to be done about it? Whose child is going to be next with this same girl?" Ashley Wright said, adding that "something has to be done" about the alleged bully and "she has to get help."
Margie Pizarro, the attorney representing Ashley Wright, said that these are just “initial” findings and argued that Raniya and the other girl (who she referred to as “Student 2”) had an escalating conflict over the course of that fateful day. Pizarro charged that teachers didn’t intervene, instead, leaving Raniya’s concerned friend to take steps to protect her.
“This is not right. Students should not be left to defending other students. Where is the accountability for Colleton County?” Pizarro said, citing their own investigation.
"Student 2" reportedly confronted Raniya on the playground on the morning of March 25, and later in the day in the cafeteria line before getting into, what Pizarro described as, a brawl in the classroom, where the substitute teacher did not intervene until it was well underway. Pizarro said that "Student 2" put Raniya “in a headlock, used her free hand to punch Raniya over and over.”
The Wright's lawyer said that while they are accepting the pathologist’s report at face value for now, they will be looking to see if there is science that suggests that such a physical altercation could trigger a reaction in someone with her medical condition, which Pizarro said Ashley Wright did not know about until after her daughter’s death.
Pizarro warned that "Student 2" allegedly has a violent history and was boasting about her fighting abilities even in the wake of Raniya’s funeral on April 3.
“It is our hope that something is done before the next student dies,” Pizarro said.