It’s still unclear what started the fight between Raniya Wright and another student on Monday. Wright, a 5th grader in the Lowcountry, died from her injuries in the fight two days later.
The tragedy has reopened coversations about bullying.
“Shocked, disappointment, sadness. All of those evolved. And I would say a little anger also,” said state Rep. Michael Rivers of Colleton County where the fight took place.
Wright’s death has left many people at a loss of words.
Last year, an anit-bullying bill requiring parents to attend counseling with their child failed. Lawmakers continue to push for new programs and additional mental health counseling this year.
Representative JA Moore is the author of one of those bills. “It’s creating a culture and awareness of mental health in schools,” explained Moore.
South Carolina now has a little more than 700 school-based mental health counselors in the state’s 1,200 schools.
Four bills have been filed for the 2019 session that require bullying reporting and outline procedures for investigations.
Data from the S.C. Department of Education shows that since the beginning of the school year there have been seven reported fights and seven other confrontations at Forest Hills Elementary School where Wright attended school.
A student survey reveals 58 percent of students said they’ve seen a student bullied at the school, while 38 percent said they’ve been bullied at school.
Senator Mike Fanning has spearheaded the movement in the state Senate to reform education. The former teacher weighed in on the problems this fight reveals.
“As a parent, as a legislator, as a former teacher, it breaks our heart what has happened. It used to be the safest place were churches and schools. And it’s unfortunate that people have a fear when their child goes off to school.”
The bullying bills filed this session will probably not make it for a vote until next year. However, the Department of Education says bullying is included in the district student conduct policy.
The House version of the budget that is now being vetted by state senators includes $2.2 million for mental health counselors. The goal is to have one in each school by 2022.