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Mom's attorney responds to senator's comments on deadly SC classroom fight

Sen. Margie Bright Matthews said on the Senate floor Tuesday that Raniya Wright was not kicked or attacked by several students.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP, WLTX) — A fifth grader who died after a fight last week at a South Carolina elementary school exchanged shoves and slaps with the other student but didn't initially appear to suffer any serious injuries, the state senator who represents the area said Tuesday.

RELATED: Investigation into death of girl in SC classroom 'could take weeks'

Sen. Margie Bright Matthews said she is trying to stop the rush to blame the substitute teacher in the classroom, administrators or the other girl involved in the March 25 fight at Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro.

Bright Matthews said the two girls had been arguing much of the day when they started pushing and slinging their arms at each other. She said the confrontation lasted less than a minute.

"I've heard a lot of people saying, oh they were kicking her. They ganged her. None of that. That is so far from the truth," Bright Matthews said from the Senate floor.

RELATED: Community angry with lack of answers in death of 5th grader at SC school

An assistant principal was nearby and escorted the girls to the principal's office as they kept arguing, Bright Matthews said.

"They seemed to be OK when they left the classroom," Bright Matthews said after Tuesday's Senate session. The Walterboro Democrat said she has talked with the families of both girls, the substitute teacher, and school and law enforcement officials.

While in the principal's office, 10-year-old Raniya Wright complained of a headache, threw up and then lost consciousness as she was taken to the nurse's office, Bright Matthews said. She died two days later at the hospital.

There was video of the girls in the school hallway walking to the office, but not inside the classroom where the scuffle took place, Bright Matthews said.

"I think it's a case of 10-year-olds acting like 10-year-olds," Bright Matthews said.

Bright Matthews said deputies immediately came to the school after the fight and questioned all the students and the teacher individually before they could go home.

RELATED: 'Justice for my daughter': Dad of SC girl who died in classroom fight wants answers

Raniya Wright's mother, Ashley Wright, has hired an attorney, and that representative said in a statement that they're upset that Matthews decided to speak out. 

"To say we are disappointed that Senator Matthews would use the South Carolina Senate as the backdrop for her statements less than 24 hours before Raniya Wright is laid to rest is disheartening and deeply regrettable," a statement from the Pizzaro Law Firm said.

The attorney pointed out that law enforcement has not made a public determination on what happened, and have said it could take several weeks. 

"We will certainly not corroborate the rumors, conjecture, and innuendo contained in the article," the statement went on to say. "We will continue to respect the investigative process and wait for findings as opposed to using the most prominent platform in our great state to offer a premature and incomplete narrative."

The other girl has been suspended and a criminal investigation into the fight continues. Solicitor Duffie Stone said it could take weeks to get tests back from the girl's autopsy and unravel exactly what happened and whether any charges should be filed.

Colleton County Sheriff's spokeswoman Shalane Lowes said Tuesday that deputies had no comment on Bright Matthew's version of events and would show their findings to the families involved before making them public.

The Colleton County School District did not respond to an email seeking comment.

RELATED: Funeral set for SC fifth-grader killed in school fight as parents still seek answers

Few details of the fight and its aftermath have been released. In its first statement on the fight, school officials said a student "suffered injuries after a fight occurred in her classroom."

None of the official information released indicated there was a medical emergency, but officials have also backed away from definitely blaming the fight for what led to Raniya's death.

The senator said she hopes the girl's death leads to legislation calling for smaller class sizes instead of anti-bullying measures. Bright Matthews would like to see 16 or fewer students in elementary school classrooms. About 25 students were in class at the time of the fight.

"Don't let young, 10-year-old Raniya Wright's death or the public persecution of the other folks to go in vain," she said.

Services for Raniya Wright will be held on Wednesday April 3 at noon at Saints Center Ministries in Walterboro.  Any Forest Hills Elementary school student who wants to attend will be given an excused absence.    

The school also plans to host a 'Remembrance day for Raniya' on Friday.  Staff and students are asked to wear pink or purple--her favorite color and at 9:45AM the school will pause for a moment of silence.    

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