South Carolina officials said Friday that a 10-year-old girl who collapsed after a classroom fight died of natural causes and that no criminal charges will be filed as a result.
Raniya Wright died in a Charleston hospital on March 27, two days after collapsing following an altercation with another fifth-grade student at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro, South Carolina. Her mother, Ashley Wright, posted on Facebook that her daughter was being bullied by her attacker, who has reportedly returned to school following a brief suspension.
Duffie Stone, the solicitor for the 14th Judicial Circuit in South Carolina, told reporters that Raniya died of a previously undetected congenital condition known as arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, a tangling of the arteries and veins that is often not diagnosed until adulthood. The pressure caused by the tangling can lead to a rupture, and if the AVM is located in the brain, the rupture can cause hemorrhaging and death. Stone said Raniya had been complaining of headaches in the weeks before she died.
“The fight did not contribute to her death," Stone said. "There was no evidence of trauma either inside or outside the body to indicate that a fight of any magnitude contributed to this. There were no bruises, no cuts, no scrapes, no busted lips, no black eyes. Internally, the tissue that was tested also did not show any other trauma. The only trauma was limited in scope to the rupture that took place in the brain.”
Following the press conference, Ashley Wright told reporters she was not aware of any birth defects or conditions in her child until after she was hospitalized.
Per a Colleton County Sheriff’s Office incident report obtained by the Post and Courier, paramedics were called to the elementary school at 1 p.m. March 25, and found Raniya "unconscious but breathing" in the nurse's office. She was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to the Medical University hospital in downtown Charleston.
Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland said Friday that Raniya was involved in a "5- to 10-second altercation" that he described as a "slap fight." He said a teacher was in the classroom during the time of the incident and quickly separated Raniya and the other student.
A lawyer representing the Wright family said Friday that they will continue to seek answers about the circumstances that led to Raniya's death and have hired an independent private investigator.
"While we certainly respect the efforts and the initial — and I’m going to stress the word 'initial' — findings that have been presented to us today, we certainly know that this is not where the story ends," attorney Margie Pizarro said.
A student in the classroom at the time of the attack told the family's investigator that Raniya had been attacked from behind by another fifth-grade girl, who punched her several times in the head, and pushed her into a file cabinet and a bookshelf, Pizarro said, according to the Associated Press.
In the three weeks since her death, Raniya's parents have publicly demanded answers from the school system about the circumstances surrounding the fight and said that they believe unchecked bullying was a factor in the girl's death.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Colleton County School District for comment.