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A week after fight led to SC 5th grader’s death, here’s what we know and what we don’t

In the classroom where a fight broke out and led to the death of a 10-year-old South Carolina girl, altercations happened “on a regular basis,” according to an attorney representing the fifth-grader’s father.

On March 25 a fight at an elementary school left Raniya Wright critically injured and she was airlifted to a hospital about 50 miles away in Charleston, according to Colleton County school officials. The Forest Hills Elementary School student died two days later, the school district said.

Mark Peper, attorney for Raniya’s father Jermaine Van Dyke, said the family will get justice for their daughter’s death, but this week needs to be about healing for the family and the community.

Raniya’s family has planned a “Celebration of Life” at noon Wednesday at the Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro, South Carolina, according to a statement from lawyers representing Raniya’s mother.

The Colleton County Sheriff and the 14th Circuit Solicitor gave an update on the investigation Friday evening. “Please remain as patient as possible,” Sheriff R.A. Strickland said, McClatchy reported.

Officials said it could be weeks before the results are back from Friday’s autopsy. “At this time it is premature to assume whether there will be any criminal charges,” 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said during the press conference.

The other fifth-grade girl accused in the fight has been suspended during the investigation, the school district said.

Raniya’s mother and father have retained separate attorneys as they push for answers from the school district and the sheriff’s office.

Attorneys David Aylor and Mark Peper, representing Raniya’s father, said in a statement: “To date, Jermaine Van Dyke has been provided no pertinent information from school officials or local law enforcement regarding the death of his daughter while in the custody and care of the school district.

“He is distraught and frustrated by their lack of communication and refusal to allow him access to any videos or investigative findings related to this matter. Mr. Van Dyke would like to thank the community for their support and prayers during these very difficult times and vows to fight for the answers his family and this community deserves,” the attorneys said.

Lawyers representing Ashley Wright, Raniya’s mother, said in a statement Friday, “The family joins the community in its calls for transparency and accountability from the school district and all other individuals involved,” according to WCIV.

“In Raniya’s name, the family is demanding change,” the Pizzaro Law Firm said in a statement, WCIV reports. “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.”

On Monday, the Pizzaro Law Firm said in a statement, “Unfortunately, we have learned no new details about the incident that occurred in that classroom at Forest Hills Elementary School on March 25, 2019.”

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.
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