Marcos Perez's daughter explaining the lunch prayer incident. (YouTube/Marcos Perez)

Marcos Perez’s daughter explaining the lunch prayer incident. (YouTube/Marcos Perez)

The parents say it happened. The principal said she can find no evidence it did. Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida is at the center of a controversy over a kindergarten student allegedly being told to stop praying at lunchtime.

Marcos Perez posted a video on YouTube in which his 5-year-old daughter, Gabriella, said a teacher in the cafeteria came over to her and ordered her to stop praying before she ate. Gabriella said she told the teacher, “It’s good to pray,” then said the teacher replied, “It’s not good.”

“She wanted to pray, but she’s a rule-follower,” said Kathy Perez, Gabriella’s mother, during a news conference Tuesday near the school. “I told her she did the right thing. I don’t doubt for a minute that my daughter is telling the truth.”

Shortly after posting the video, Marcos Perez contacted Carillon’s principal, Analynn Jones, and informed her of the incident. School district spokesman Michael Lawrence told the Orlando Sentinel Principal Jones spoke to all school employees who were in the cafeteria at the time of the alleged incident and could find no one who recalls Gabriella being told not to pray.

Lawrence went on to say that Jones reminded her staff that students do have the right to pray when in school.



However, WKMG Local 6 spoke to Lawrence who said, “The situation as stated by the parent has not occurred according to the school’s investigation…We’re dealing with very young children here so there’s quite a bit of an opportunity for miscommunication to occur. The timing and the issues were very odd considering that the first thing that happened was that a video was done, it was on YouTube.” The school district says the parents did not contact school officials until after posting the YouTube video, but Mr. Perez denied that claim and said he sent the district several emails before his post.

This has not satisfied the Texas-based Liberty Institute of Plano, who have agreed to represent the family and have demanded an apology and a better investigation by school officials.

The law firm is asking for an apology and a better investigation. Kathy Perez said the staffer involved should not work at a public school.

“The principal has pretty much dismissed this,” said Jeremiah Dys, a Liberty Institute lawyer working with the family. “Saying a 5-year-old cannot pray over her chicken nuggets and mac and cheese isn’t in line with the Constitution.”

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