By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
The mother of Raniya Wright, the Walterboro, South Carolina, girl who died after a classroom fight, says Raniya’s friends told her that a bully had been baiting the 10-year-old into a fight and caused her to hit her head on a bookshelf before she died.
Speaking to “Good Morning America” on Monday, Ashley Wright said she had complained to Forest Hills Elementary School in the past about the girl involved in the altercation.
“I notified the school and I also spoke with her teacher at the time about this same person,” she told the morning show. “She would just always come home saying this one girl picking on her.”
Though school officials have released sparse details about the circumstances leading to Raniya’s death, Ashley Wright said that her daughter’s classmates told her the bully had been “bothering Niya all day, wanting to fight her.”
“They were in the class,” the mother said “The girl came up behind her and was hitting her all in the head. How long, I don’t know. She pushed her or rammed her head or something into the bookshelf.”
Raniya had no prior health issues, Wright said. School officials said there were no weapons involved in the March 25 fight.
The school nurse called the mother around lunchtime, Wright told “GMA,” and told her that Raniya had “been in an accident, a fight.” She was OK, the nurse told her, but she was complaining about dizziness and having a headache, Wright recalled.
She didn’t get a call back when Raniya’s condition worsened, she said. Wright arrived at the hospital to find her daughter unresponsive and hooked up to machines, she said.
“I had to sleep by my baby the night before she passed, and that was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life,” she said. “It’s just hard.”
Officials said they stopped the fight, and Raniya was taken to the school nurse’s station. She was unconscious when paramedics arrived, and they took her to a nearby hospital, according to a sheriff’s office report. She was later airlifted to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where she died two days after the fight.
From the state Senate podium last week, Sen. Margie Bright Matthews of Walterboro said she’s spoken to officials — including the substitute teacher in charge — and wanted to correct rumors surrounding Raniya’s death.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Oh, they were kicking her. They ganged her.’ None of that. That’s so far from the truth — not even the banging of (her) head. The head was not even an issue,” she said.
Mark Peper, an attorney for the girl’s father, responded, “We are still awaiting official disclosures from the school district, police department and all other public entities, none of whom have provided our client with any pertinent information to date. If the events alleged by the senator (Tuesday) turn out to be factual, so be it, but our client deserves to know what happened to his daughter in a timely fashion.”
A law firm representing Wright said, “We are disappointed that Sen. Matthews would use the South Carolina Senate as the backdrop for her statements less than 24 hours before Raniya Wright is laid to rest.”
Sean Gruber, a spokesman for the Colleton County School District, has declined to provide details, saying the district will not comment until police investigators release their findings.
“We realize and appreciate that people want to know exactly what happened in this incident. However, it is important for us as a school district to make sure that the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office’s thorough investigation, relying on all of the facts available, is concluded before we comment publicly.”
Dozens of mourners stood outside a South Carolina church as the horse-drawn carriage with Raniya’s casket arrived Wednesday for a celebration of life at Walterboro’s Saints Center Ministries.
“Your wings were ready, but our hearts were not,” said a message on the carriage’s windows.