Hundreds mourn 10-year-old who died after classroom fight

COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Exactly one week after her death following a classroom fight which drew the national spotlight and has shaken the Walterboro community, a 10-year-old Colleton County girl was laid to rest Wednesday.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral service for RaNiya Wright at the Saints Center Ministries on Colson Street in Walterboro. Two white horses pulled a white carriage carrying Wright’s white coffin.

Many who attended, like Ashley Washington, were Wright’s classmates.

“I’ve known Raniyah since the beginning of the year, she’s really nice," she said. "She wasn’t my best friend but she was good friend.”

School district officials said on Tuesday that Forest Hills Elementary students who wish to attend the service will have an excused absence.

The school district also added extra support staff, including two crisis support teams with more than 20 members, at the school.

Friday will also be a day of remembrance for Wright at the school.

The Colleton County School District released the following statement on Friday:

All of us in the school district were touched by Raniya Wright’s funeral service Wednesday. We send our deepest sympathies to the family of Raniya, and we will do whatever we can as a district to help our community mourn, and heal from, this loss.

We will continue to offer counseling and other support services to our students, teachers, and staff for the next few weeks. Please reach out to us if you need our assistance.

We know that this has been an emotionally draining time for many people in our region. We know that members of our community may have questions and concerns as we try to sort out the details surrounding this tragedy. We realize and appreciate that people want to know exactly what happened in this incident.

However, it is important for our school district to make sure that the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office thorough investigation, relying on all of the facts available, is concluded before we comment publicly.

Our school district must ensure that we respect all laws regarding student privacy and confidentiality rights. We also do not want to release any statement that could jeopardize the continuing investigation. Once the investigation is complete, we will release a full report to the public.

Now is the time for our community to mourn the loss of a child. The facts of this tragedy will become clearer in the weeks ahead.

Wright’s funeral service came as both her father and mother are still looking for answers from the sheriff’s office and the school district about her death.

Late Tuesday, State Sen. Margie Bright Matthews made comments on the floor that Wright was not kicked or attacked by several students. The Democrat says the 10-year-old didn’t bang her head. She added that a substitute teacher was on duty that day and that the incident initially appeared to be a “simple back and forth” between two young girls.

The Colleton County School District reacted to Bright Matthews’ comments.

“We realize and appreciate that people want to know exactly what happened in this incident," district spokesman Sean Gruber said. "However it is important for us as a school district to make sure that the Colleton County Sheriff Office’s thorough investigation relying on all of the facts available is concluded before we comment publicly. Now is the time for our community to mourn the loss of a child. The facts of this tragedy will become clearer in the weeks ahead.”

At a news conference Monday morning, Jermaine Van Dyke, the father of RaNiya Wright said he was looking for justice for his daughter.

"I’m looking to just to find out what happened, how it happened and who was involved, that’s really it,” he said.

Attorney Mark Peper also stated that the school was aware of other, “altercations” in the classroom where the fight involving Wright happened, adding his team has spoken to the teacher that was in the classroom that day.

At a news conference last Friday, the 14th Circuit Solicitor and the Colleton County sheriff issued brief statements on the investigation but provided no details.

An autopsy was performed on Wright Friday morning but said complete results could take weeks to come in.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said that after the results of tests performed during the autopsy are complete and the investigation is finished, they will first share the results with Wright’s family and then with the public.

“We do not have a timetable for the conclusion of this investigation,” Sheriff R.A. Strickland said. “We expect some aspects to take several weeks. We will do whatever is necessary and take as much time as necessary to ensure a thorough investigation. We will disclose our findings and all test results at the appropriate time.”

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