The parents of a 5-year-old girl who was reportedly told to stop praying over her lunch in public school are demanding an apology from and an investigation into the school.
During the week of March 10, kindergartner Gabriella Perez came home from Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Fla. and told her parents that her teacher had told her to stop praying during lunch.
Her shocked parents recorded their daughter’s rendition of the incident, and proceeded to upload the video to Youtube.
“The lunch teacher said, ‘You’re not allowed to pray.’ I said, ‘It’s good to pray.’ She said, ‘It’s not good,’” Gabriella says in the footage.
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Gabriella’s father, Marcos, emailed and called the principal to complain.
Seminole County Public School Officials, however, claimed that no one remembered the incident happening.
Nonetheless, Kathy Perez maintains that her daughter was not lying. “She wanted to pray, but she’s a rule-follower,” Kathy said in a news conference on Tuesday. “I told her she did the right thing. I don’t doubt for a minute that my daughter is telling the truth.”
District spokesman Michael Lawrence said that after the video was uploaded, the school’s principal specifically “made it clear to staff that students do have the right to pray in school.”
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Lawrence added that the school doesn’t “have a policy against student prayer at all.”
Marcos Perez, a vice president of sales at Christian book publisher Charisma House, said that he “didn’t expect anyone to step forward and take the blame.”
In response to the suggestion that he might be using the incident to promote the publishing house’s religious books, Perez said that such an action “would be egregious.”
“I’m a father first, a VP of sales second,” Perez stated.
The family is now being represented by Texas-based law firm Liberty Institute. Lawyer Jeremiah Dys said that “the principal has pretty much dismissed this.”
Gabriella has been taken out of the school; her parents are considering home-schooling their child.