Mark Peper, an attorney representing Van Dyke, said Wright’s father had one meeting with the superintendent of the school, but that the meeting didn’t really provide any true developments.
Elizabeth LaFleur, email@example.com
GREENVILLE, S.C. – The father of a Colleton County elementary school student who died after a classroom fight last week held a press conference Monday asking for more information.
Raniya Wright’s father, Jermaine Van Dyke, spoke briefly to media outside of Forest Hills Elementary School.
“I’m here to find justice for my daughter,” Van Dyke said.
Wright, a fifth-grader, was fatally injured in a fight March 25 at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro. She died in the hospital March 27.
Van Dyke and his lawyers said they’ve received little information regarding the case, despite trying to contact the school district and law enforcement handling the case.
Mark Peper, an attorney representing Van Dyke, said Wright’s father had one meeting with the superintendent of the school, but that the meeting didn’t really provide any true developments regarding what actually happened that day or what has happened since.
Peper said Van Dyke first heard Wright was injured from his mother. Peper said by the time Van Dyke arrived at Colleton County Medical Center, Wright had been taken by medical helicopter to the Medical University of South Carolina Hospital in Charleston.
It’s not yet known if a teacher was in the classroom when the fight occurred, but Peper said his team has spoken with a teacher who was in the classroom that day of the fight as well as some parents.
“We’re still gathering the results of our investigation,” Peper said, “but it’s been made pretty clear to us that there’s been a pattern of behavior over the last, really four or five years.”
Peper said he was hesitant to label the fight as bullying while an investigation is ongoing.
“It would be fair to say that the school was on notice that were some altercations occurring on a very regular basis between individuals in this specific classroom,” he said.
Peper said Wright’s mother is being represented by a different team of attorneys, but that the two groups are in constant communication as they seek more information.
Another student, a fifth-grader, has been suspended from school. No charges had been filed in the case as of Monday morning.
Officials from the Sheriff’s Office and the Colleton County School District have declined to answer many questions or provide more details.
Peper said the most important questions left unanswered are how and why.
Tyeesha Aiken, a parent of two children, wants transparency from the school district.
She said she’d long considered homeschooling her son and now plans to make that move.
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“This could have been prevented and that’s the most hurtful thing,” Aiken said. “As a community, we’re going to get through it, but we’re going to hold people accountable and we’re going to make sure justice is served.”
Without much information made public, Linda Godwin, a downtown business owner, says rumors are circling the small town.
“This has been such a shock,” said Godwin, an Upstate South Carolina native who moved to Walterboro nearly 40 years ago.
Godwin described her adopted hometown as a quiet town without a lot of traffic and few problems.
“People are fairly close knit here and everybody sort of looks out for each other,” she said.
Godwin said she hopes authorities will provide more information soon, because she knows it’s hard for people to wait for the details.
Cindy Corley grew up in Walterboro, raised her children there and now has grandchildren in Walterboro schools.
“We’re so sorry that this happened,” Corley said. “We don’t have the answers yet that we need, but I’m sure the family is the ones that needs the answers first.”
She said she believes when people spread rumors about what happened, they’re just looking for answers.
Corley said her heart aches for everyone involved and for the community at large.
“Everybody has been affected and there’s been a lot of prayers and it’s going to take time for healing,” Corley said. “Tragedies happen everywhere. When it comes to your front door, it’s more real.”
“This is just more real for us and I don’t think there’s anybody who just doesn’t cry out for everybody that’s involved,” she said.
“I hope that we heal and that these families find some peace somewhere. I don’t think that’s going to happen overnight.”
Healing is a theme in Walterboro’s history.
The town of about 5,000 people was settled in the 1700s by brothers Paul and Jacob Walter who were seeking a place they could bring Paul’s daughter during the summer while she suffered from malaria.
Peper reflected on the town’s history Monday morning, noting Walterboro was founded as a place to come and heal, and he hopes that’s what the community will be able to do following Wright’s death.
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