A South Carolina State legislator is catching heat from the residents of Walterboro, SC, for sharing details about 10-year-old RaNiya Wright, who died on March 27, two days after a classroom fight with another 5th grader.
Senator Margie Bright Matthews addressed questions surrounding RaNiya's death during a Senate meeting on Tuesday.
She said RaNiya was not kicked in the head or attacked by several students, as was previously reported.
She said a substitute teacher was in the classroom with about 20 students when a fight broke out between RaNiya and another student. The senator said the "brief" altercation involved "shoves and slaps." She said the girls had argued throughout the day.
The two students were separated by school administrators or the school's resource officer, and RaNiya and the other girl continued to argue in the principal's office.
Suddenly RaNiya grabbed her head, complained of a headache, vomited and collapsed on the floor.
She was still breathing but unresponsive in the nurse's office when medics arrived minutes later. She was transported to a local hospital with what medics described as "an apparent minor injury." Then she was airlifted to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she was placed on life support.
Bright Matthews said she spoke with school officials and RaNiya's grandmother to determine what happened after RaNiya died unexpectedly on Wednesday.
Community residents were angry that Bright Matthews shared details about RaNiya's death so close to her funeral.
"It was inappropriate this close to the funeral," said one mourner, according to Fox News reporter Cody Alcorn.
One irate Twitter user wrote: "@margieBmatthews you need to tell us how you "know" what happened to #RaniyaWright when her family doesn’t even know. No matter what happened A CHILD IS DEAD. Smh."
The Colleton County Sheriff's Office and the school district refused to confirm or deny Bright Matthews’ statements, or reports that the youngster died from bleeding and swelling in her brain.
The Colleton County School District said the Colleton County Sheriff's Office was still conducting a "thorough investigation" into RaNiya's death, so details are still being withheld.
RaNiya's mother, Ashley Wright, said her daughter was constantly bullied in school, but officials have not stated that bullying sparked the fight.
The Sheriff's Office stated the fight is being investigated as a "simple assault." No criminal charges have been filed against the other 10-year-old girl, who was suspended from school "indefinitely."
At a news conference on Monday morning, RaNiya's father, Jermaine Van Dyke, said he was looking for justice for his daughter.
"I'm looking to just to find out what happened, how it happened and who was involved, that's really it," he said.
— News 19 WLTX (@WLTX) April 1, 2019
An autopsy was completed on Friday, but the coroner said results from tests could take "several weeks."
Results from the final autopsy report will not be released until the final police investigation is complete, said Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone.
Hundreds attended RaNiya's life celebration on Wednesday. Students who attended the services were given an excused absence from school.
Fellow classmates at Forest Hills Elementary School will wear RaNiya's favorite colors, pink and purple, during a day of Remembrance on Friday. Staff will include two crisis support teams with more than 20 members, according to WALB10 News.
On Wednesday, the school district acknowledged the community's many questions and concerns about what happened to RaNiya.
"We realize and appreciate that people want to know exactly what happened in this incident," said Sean Gruber, a spokesman for the Colleton County School District.
"Now is the time for our community to mourn the loss of a child. The facts of this tragedy will become clearer in the weeks ahead."
After the funeral, RaNiya's white coffin was transported to her final resting place in a white carriage drawn by two white horses.
"Your wings were ready, but our hearts were not," said a message on the carriage's windows.
— Caroline Balchunas (@carolinebTV) April 3, 2019