SC 5th-grader RaNiya Wright held in headlock, hit in head during fight, according to witness statements, newly-released 911 tape
COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Following the announcement of their investigation’s findings into the death of fifth-grader RaNiya Wright, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office released a cache of documents and information, including the 911 call made by a Forest Hill Elementary School counselor after the student became unresponsive.
14th Circuit Solicitor Duffy Stone said the Colleton County Coroner’s Office has ruled that RaNiya died of natural causes stemming from a pre-existing condition called arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. AVM is defined as a rare condition and happens with the twisting and eventual rupture of a vein or artery. The condition presents itself in the form of headaches and dizziness caused by pressure or a rupture of the malformation.
The location of RaNiya’s AVM was in the back-left portion of her brain.
“The fight was over “petty child things” said an investigator in the sheriff’s office’s incident report, based details from students in the class at the time.”
"In this case, the science is very clear. Science showed us her death was natural,” Stone said.
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On March 25, a school counselor called 911 after RaNiya complained of being dizzy and began vomiting after being taken to the school principal’s office after getting into a fight with another student.
According to the 911 call, the school counselor told the 911 dispatcher that Wright was faintly breathing but unresponsive.
The investigation said that Wright had a history of headaches and had been to the doctor several times in the last two years complaining of headaches and dizziness, which they said were symptoms of AVM. Stone also said Friday that Wright had been to the doctor 13 days prior to the incident.
Wright’s family said they knew nothing of her having AVM and that she was a happy and healthy child who played basketball.
The report says it was observed that Wright had been put “in a headlock” and that the other student “was striking her in the head with her fist.”
I went to the classroom and requested all students to take out a piece of paper and advised them to write what they saw and heard related to the juveniles Wright and [redacted]. Mrs. [redacted]/ substitute teacher for the class also provided a written statement. Upon reviewing all statements, it was determined that both juvenile Wright and [redacted] had been exchanging words throughout the day. Statements stated that they were also throwing [pieces of] paper back and forth at one another.
The report continues, saying:
In relation to the incident, students stated that juvenile Wright got up from her desk and walked in a direction to the teacher’s desk while allowed her to pass to the rear of juvenile [redacted]. It was during this movement that juvenile Wright hit juvenile [redacted] then got up out of her seat and followed behind juvenile Wright and once they were standing behind the seat of [redacted], juvenile [redacted] began to hit juvenile Wright. It was observed by some students that juvenile [redacted] had juvenile Wright in a headlock and was striking her in the head with her fist.
The narrative goes on to say that the substitute teacher broke up the fight when she heard them behind her. In another document, the substitute teacher’s statement said the two girls were “arguing back and forth” and she told them they would be denied their recess. She said her back was turned with when the fight started and she separated them.
You can read the full incident report here:
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"I do not know what made the two young girls fight," the statement said. "I do know they were arguing back and forth previous to the altercation."
RaNiya’s family said there is more to this and they’ve hired a private investigator to conduct an independent investigation on their behalf.
Despite the sheriff’s office investigation saying that “bullying was not a factor” in what led to the incident prior to Wright falling ill, her mother, Ashley Wright, said her daughter had not wanted to go to school because of the taunting by the other student. The family’s attorney said that the other student called RaNiya “ugly,” “you momma is broke,” and “you like girls,” among other things.
According to the student interviewed by the family’s private investigator, Wright and the other student involved with the fight had a history of incidents for the last two years.
“What was the trigger for the rupture if she had this preexisting condition?” asks the family’s attorney. They plan to press for answers from medical professionals.
Ashley Wright, RaNiya’s mother, who gave an emotional and heated statement outside of the sheriff’s office says she will never be able to hold her daughter again and clapped back at internet bullies and a South Carolina state senator who claimed the fight was just a “small scuffle.”
The school’s P.E. teacher provided a statement in a redacted interview from April 15, stating that RaNiya often visited her before school started and that their relationship was close. The teacher said RaNiya never mentioned any type of bullying, but that another little girl was mean to her and didn’t speak when RaNiya said hi.
“That was the kind of thing,” the teacher said. “Just type of girl drama like that. I never heard her say the word ‘bullying’ to me.”
[ MORE: Attorney: School was ‘on-notice’ of previous altercations in classroom before 10-year-old’s death ]
The teacher also said Ashley Wright told her and two other teachers that RaNiya had brain aneurysm that had ruptured.
"I knew who the other girl was from previous years because I taught her brother," she said. "When I found out this happened, my first thing was 'I didn't know this student was back at Forest Hills [Elementary School in Walterboro], so I mean, obviously, she had not told me anything about it because I knew she had gone somewhere else last year. I really... as close as I was to RaNiya, I feel like she would have told me if something was going on. She told me everything - everything that was going on at home - everything, and not once did she ever say anything."
The Colleton County School District says it cannot release the disciplinary record of the other student involved in the fight. The other student involved in the fight has been placed in an “alternative school environment” and will not return to Forest Hills Elementary School this semester.
Investigators say teachers and administrators at Forest Hills Elementary School did everything right and according to protocol once the fight was over.
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