OVIEDO, Fla. — Officials at an elementary school in Florida have opened a full investigation after a kindergartner who stated that she was recently ‘not allowed to pray’ over her lunch identified the monitor responsible for interrupting her prayer.
As previously reported, Marcos and Kathy Perez told reporters last week that their daughter Gabriella advised them recently that one of her lunch monitors at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo had spotted her praying over lunch and stopped her from doing do.
They stated that they asked their daughter again about the matter to ensure that the story was true, and when they saw that both accounts were exact, they emailed the school about the matter and recorded a video of Gabriella outlining the incident in her own words.
“I was about to pray and say something to Jesus,” Gabriella explained, showing how she had put her hands together and bowed her head. “My lunch teacher told me when I was about to say something, she said, ‘You’re not allowed to pray.’”
“[I said] ‘It’s good to pray,’” the kindergartner continued. “And she just said, ‘It’s not good.’”
The Perez’ contacted Principal Analynn Jones, who then spoke to staff members about the issue and to outline that students have the right to pray in school. But Jones said that none of the teachers recalled the incident and a spokesperson asserted that there may be some sort of “miscommunication” about the matter.
“The situation as stated by the parent has not occurred according to the school’s investigation,” Michael Lawrence, communications officer for Seminole County Schools, told WKMG-TV. “We’re dealing with very young children here, so there’s quite a bit of an opportunity for miscommunication to occur.”
However, on Monday, the Perez family met with officials at Carillon Elementary School and their attorney to discuss the incident further. According to a report from the Liberty Institute, which has been assisting the Perez family at no charge, Gabriella again explained what took place that day. School officials then requested that the student identify the responsible lunch monitor from a line-up, and Gabriella “positively identified that individual.” The person’s name has not yet been released.
As a result of the meeting, officials have now opened a full investigation into the matter, which pleased both the Perez family and their attorneys.
“My goal throughout this process has been to defend my daughter’s religious liberty,” Marcos Perez said in a statement. “I am thankful that the school now believes that something clearly happened when my daughter attempted to say Grace, and are taking swift action to correct the situation.”
“We are grateful that Carillon Elementary School is now taking this matter seriously and conducting a thorough investigation,” added Jeremy Dys, senior counsel at the Liberty Institute. “We hope that, at the conclusion of this investigation, school officials will apologize for this clear violation of the Perez family’s religious liberty and begin to restore the trust of the community.”