Family, friends attend funeral services for fifth grader who died from injuries suffered in classroom fight with another student

PHOTO: People gather outside prior to the funeral service for Raniya Wright, 10, a fifth-grader at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro, South Carolina, who died March 27 after a fight with a classmate.PlayWJCL
WATCH Funeral services scheduled for fifth grader who died after classroom fight

The family and friends of Raniya Wright, the South Carolina fifth grader who died from injuries days after a classroom fight with another girl, said their final goodbyes to the 10-year-old during funeral services Wednesday.

The "celebration" to honor the life of Raniya was scheduled for noon at Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro, an obituary said.

Students who wished to attend the funeral service were given an excused absence for the day, said Forest Hills Elementary School, where Raniya was involved in a fight with a classmate on March 25. She died March 27.

The school said in a letter that was posted on the Colleton County School District's website that it would also hold a Remembrance Day for her on Friday.

"We invite staff and students to wear pink or purple, Raniya's favorite colors. At 9:45 a.m., we will have a schoolwide moment of silence. Later that afternoon, students will be given the opportunity to create poster cards for the family," the school said. "We will continue to provide counseling and support services to our students and staff for the next few weeks."

On Monday, Raniya's father, Jermaine Van Dyke, and his lawyers held a news conference outside of Forest Hills Elementary.

"I'm here today looking for justice for my daughter," Van Dyke said. "I wanted just to find out what happened, how it happened and who was involved."

His lawyer Mark Peper said they had spoken "at length" with the teacher who was in the classroom that day but would not disclose the details of that conversation.

David Aylor, Van Dyke's lawyer, said Monday that the father had had "little to no contact" from anyone, including the school district, regarding Raniya's death.

PHOTO: RaNiya Wright, a fifth-grade student at Forest Hills Elementary School is pictured in this undated photo provided by her family. Family Photo
RaNiya Wright, a fifth-grade student at Forest Hills Elementary School is pictured in this undated photo provided by her family.

On March 25, a staff member at the elementary school called 911 to report that a student had collapsed, according to an incident report released by the Colleton County Sheriff's Office.

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 Children's Health in Charleston, according to the school district.

Authorities did not initially release the names of the two students involved in the incident because they were both younger than 17, but last Wednesday, the Colleton County School District identified Raniya as the student who died.

In a statement on its website, the Colleton County School 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 on March 27 in a public Facebook post, saying: "My baby girl has [gained] her wings."

As of Wednesday, a GoFundMe page for Raniya's family had raised more than $54,000.

Lawyers for the Wright family 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.

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 the incident.

PHOTO: Raniya Wright, a fifth-grader in Walterboro, S.C., died on March 27, 2019, after a physical altercation with another girl in class. Her mother, Ashley Wright, posted on Facebook: My baby girl has (gained) her wings. Gofundme
Raniya Wright, a fifth-grader in Walterboro, S.C., died on March 27, 2019, after a physical altercation with another girl in class. Her mother, Ashley Wright, posted on Facebook: "My baby girl has (gained) her wings."

No weapons were involved in the incident, said Shalane Lowes, a police information officer for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office.

The other student involved in the altercation has been suspended from school "until the investigation is complete," the school district said.

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 ongoing investigation and student-privacy laws.

In a statement Friday, the Colleton County Sheriff's Office said it would release its findings and autopsy results "at the appropriate time."

"We do not have a time table for the conclusion of this investigation. We expect some aspects to take at least several weeks. We will do whatever is necessary, and take as much time as is necessary to ensure a thorough investigation," the sheriff's office wrote. "This investigation is continuing."