Vigil held to remember 10-year-old who died after classroom fight

WALTERBORO, SC (WCSC) - The Colleton County community came together Thursday night to remember an elementary school student who died Wednesday morning, two days after a fight broke out in her classroom.

RaNiya Wright, 10, died at MUSC in Charleston. Wright was airlifted there Monday afternoon after what district officials called a fight between two students at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro.

Hundreds of people gathered in Walterboro asking for the violence to stop.

Parents, members of the community, and religious leaders came to Pinckney Park to pray. Regardless of their religion, everyone was asking for hope and for action.

“We are one community and we will be there for each other," Zane Brown, pastor of Nova Church, said, "and some of the anger and fear and speculation of what happened will kind of calm down until the investigation is done.”

Some also attended to remember 22-year-old Derek Smith,who was shot and killed by a Colleton County deputy on March 22. Sheriff R. A. Strickland said his deputy shot Smith in self defense while responding to a burglary.

Above all, those who came together said violence in the community will no longer stand.

“The strength and the numbers in the community can make things happen,” community member Richard Shealy said.

The feeling among many at the vigil was they’re they’re hurting and they want answers.

Some parents say they have children that have been bullied at school. Officials have not yet said if Wright’s death had anything to do with bullying, but many say they’re worried about their children’s safety.

“I thought up until now it was a safe haven for the little ones at the elementary school and apparently it is not,” Shealy said.

The focus was on getting the community together to focus on a larger issue. The community says they’ve had enough of the tragedies plaguing their community. They’re asking for everyone to step up.

“If we had more teachers, more dedication," community member Carlos Hamlin said. "I don’t know. We’ve got to fix the system. It’s broken.”

Few details have been released about the nature of Wright’s injuries or the incident itself.

Colleton County School District spokesman Sean Gruber said the district is cooperating with the investigation.

The county’s school board scheduled a special meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the incident in executive session, and officials expected the board to make some kind of statement after that meeting.

The sheriff’s office said it will not comment on the ongoing investigation, but that it may release a statement Friday after an autopsy is complete.

The vigil is being held Thursday at 6 p.m. in Pinckney Park, at 505 Hampton Street in Walterboro.

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