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Kindergartner says a teacher told her to stop praying at lunch

Seminole County School District officials said they investigated the incident, but found no one who could remember it happening.
By Kate Stanton   |   April 1, 2014 at 7:42 PM   |   Comments

April 1 (UPI) -- Marcos Perez, of Oviedo, Calif., said his 5-year-old daughter told him that a teacher at Carillon Elementary stopped her from praying at lunch last month.

Last week, Perez posted a YouTube video of his daughter, Gabriella, providing her account of the incident.

"I was about to pray and say something to Jesus," the kindergartner says in the video. "The lunch teacher said, 'You're not allowed to pray.' I said, 'It's good to pray.' She said, 'It's not good.'"

But Seminole County school officials said they investigated the allegations and found that no one who might have been in the cafeteria at the time could remember any such conversation occurring.

"The situation as stated by the parent has not occurred according to the school's investigation," Seminole County Schools spokesperson Michael Lawrence said in a statement. "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."

When the Perez family's claims garnered media attention, lawyers with the Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas offered to represent them.

"Saying a 5-year-old cannot pray over her chicken nuggets and mac and cheese isn't in line with the Constitution," said the Perez family lawyer, Jeremy Dys. He's calling for the school to apologize.

Lawrence said that school officials reminded staff that children could pray at lunch.

"If a student wishes to pray at lunch to herself we do not have a policy against that," he said.

[WKMG Orlando, Orlando Sentinel]

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