‘They Failed Me:’ Mother Says She Alerted Officials to Bullying Before Deadly 5th Grade Fight

By Zachary Stieber

The mother of a 10-year-old South Carolina girl who died two days after a school fight says that she complained to school officials about her daughter being bullied multiple times before the brawl.

The Colleton County School District said that Raniya Wright “suffered injuries after a fight occurred in the classroom” on March 25 and was airlifted to a hospital.

Wright, a 5th grader at Hills Elementary School, died on March 27 at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Wright’s mother, Ashley Wright, said that she told school officials that her daughter was being bullied but that nothing was done in response.

Ashley Wright and her daughter Raniya Wright
Ashley Wright and her daughter Raniya Wright in a file photo. (Ashley Wright/GoFundMe)

“I’m very upset with the school system, starting out, only because of the fact that I’ve been complaining about the person that she fought numerous times to them,” Wright told ABC in an interview that aired on April 8.

“That’s what really breaks me down and makes me question to myself why nothing was never done up until now with this happening.”

Wright said that she thought the bullying issue was being handled.

“I’m thinking they got it handled, and they failed me,” she said.

Wright said that the other student involved in the fight, who has not been publicly identified, bullied her girl for at least a year. She said her mother, Raniya’s grandmother, saw Raniya before she went to school on the fateful day and that the girl didn’t want to go.

“My momma said that she did not want to go to school. She told me later on that day, when I was on lunch before the school called, that she didn’t want to go to school,” Wright recalled. “And the last couple of weeks she’s been feeling like that. When I say, ‘You got a half a day tomorrow.’ She’ll be like, ‘Yes, can I just stay home?’ She did not want to go to school these last couple of weeks. … I felt like the situation at school was getting worse.”

Raniya kept complaining about the girl, saying she was picking on her every day, including making fun of her nose and hair.

The interview came after parents of other students expressed frustration with the investigation into what happened, saying district officials aren’t being transparent.

Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone has not released the result of the initial autopsy and officials were waiting for results from several medical tests, reported the Post and Courier. Stone said the results might not be released until mid- or late-April.

State Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, a Democrat, claimed that Raniya received no blows in the fight, describing what happened as a brief shoving match.

“I’ve heard a lot of people saying, oh they were kicking her. They ganged her. None of that. That is so far from the truth,” Bright Matthews said from the Senate floor on April 2.

Raniya held her head after the shoves and later threw up and lost consciousness, the lawmaker said.

“I think it’s a case of 10-year-olds acting like 10-year-olds,” she said, saying in her opinion it was not a bullying issue but a class size issue.

Bright Matthews said that she spoke with the families of both girls as well as others but Wright’s father and his attorneys said that he’s had little to no contact with any officials regarding what happened.

“Everyone, of course, is heartbroken,” attorney David Aylor said at a press conference on April 1, speaking of father Jermaine Van Dyke. “Unfortunately, the people who have been hurt the most is the family. This being the father of that beautiful young lady who lost her life has received almost no information. He’s had one meeting with the superintendent of the school that didn’t really provide any true developments.”

Van Dyke added that he wants justice for his daughter, saying, “I wanted to find out what happened, how it happened, and who was involved.”