Kindergartner Praying Over Lunch in Cafeteria Scolded by Teacher

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 11:22 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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The parents of a Florida kindergartner charged that their daughter was scolded by a teacher for praying over her lunch in the cafeteria and they have pulled her from the public school.

Marcos and Kathy Perez said their 5-year-old daughter Gabriella was told to stop praying during lunch at Carillon Elementary cafeteria in Ovideo, Fla., on March 10, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

"The lunch teacher said, 'You're not allowed to pray,'" the girl said, according to the newspaper. "I said, 'It's good to pray. She said, 'It's not good.'"

Marcos Perez posted a video of the incident on YouTube and pulled his daughter from Carillon in the Orlando suburb to home school her.

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Seminole County Public Schools officials told the Sentinel that Principal Analynn Jones spoke to staff that could have been in the cafeteria when the Perezes said their daughter was told not to pray and could not find anyone who recalled the incident.

Michael Lawrence, a school district spokesman, told WKMG-TV that no one has been identified in the incident.

"We're dealing with very young children here so there's quite a bit of an opportunity for miscommunication to occur," Lawrence told the television station. "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."

Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel for the Texas-based Liberty Institute representing the family, said the Perez family tried to contact the school via emails several times before posting the video.

"This is a violation of the federal law and we expect the school district to apologize to the Perezes and the community as well as take steps to ensure this does not happen again," Dys said in a letter to the school district, according to WKMG-TV.

Dys told the television station that the school district has until Monday to issue a public apology and "announce the steps it is taking to ensure this does not happen in the future" to "avoid any enforcement actions."

The Sentinel reported that Marcos Perez is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Christian book publisher which is currently promoting "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values."

Perez told the Sentinel he had no ulterior motives with the controversy.

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