'Kindergartner Told Not to Pray at School by Teacher' Story is Debunked
Christian conservatives and Fox News rallied around kindergartner Gabriella Perez when she claimed that a teacher at Carillon Elementary in Oviedo, Fla., told her not to pray in a lunchroom in March.
Perez's parents created a video and posted it on YouTube. In the video, Gabriella seemed to be coached into saying, "My lunch teacher told me that, when I was about to say something, she said, 'You're not allowed to pray.'"
Fox News' Todd Starnes pushed the story hard on the web, but school officials claim there is no evidence that Gabriella's claim is true.
"We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred," Seminole County school district spokesman Mike Lawrence told the Orlando Sentinel. "There's no proof whatsoever."
By an amazing coincidence, Gabriella's father, Marcos Perez, works for a Christian book publisher in Lake Mary, Fla. that is promoting a book written by Starnes, entitled God Less America, which happens to be about supposed persecution of Christians in the U.S.
Lawrence said that Gabriella was unable to identify a teacher from pictures provided by the school district, but picked a person from the school's website.
However, a school-district investigator found "there is no way possible that person was anywhere near the lunchroom" where kindergartners eat.
"We apologized for the incident she believes occurred, but there was nothing warranted or found [in the investigation]," Lawrence said in a statement. "For what the school endured, this is very vindicating."
Oddly, the Perez's lawyer Jeremy Dys seemed to take the apology as an admission of guilt, which it was not.
"We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools," said Dys. "The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."