Family says Seminole County school investigating after girl told not to pray

By Daniel Dahm, Managing Editor of ClickOrlando.com, ddahm@clickorlando.com
Published On: Apr 08 2014 11:32:30 AM EDT
Updated On: Apr 08 2014 03:39:45 PM EDT

The family whose 5-year-old says she was told by a teacher she wasn't allowed to pray at school held a news conference on Tuesday demanding an apology from the Seminole County school for infringing on their daughter's First Amendment right.

OVIEDO, Fla. -

The attorneys representing the family of a 5-year-old who claims she was told by an official that she wasn't allowed to pray at school said the school has launched an investigation into the incident.

According to the Liberty Institute, the Perez family met with officials from Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo on Monday and Gabriella Perez recounted the situation to the principal and school attorney, re-enacting her prayer in the lunchroom.

The Liberty Institute also said Gabriella was presented with a lineup and positively identified the "lunchroom teacher" who she says told her praying was wrong.  The lineup was conducted at the request of the school, the Liberty Institute said.

Seminole County Public Schools, however, would not confirm to Local 6 whether an investigation was taking place or if a lineup was conducted.

"We are grateful that Carillon Elementary School is now taking this matter seriously and conducting a thorough investigation," said Jeremy Dys, senior counsel to 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."

Local 6 first reported last week the controversy surrounding the video posted on YouTube by the girl's father, Marco Perez, as Gabriella described the incident.  Gabriella said that she was bowing her head when a lunchroom teacher told her she wasn't allowed to pray.

The Perez family said the exchange occurred in the lunchroom of Carillon Elementary School the week of March 10.

The Perez family has demanded an apology from Seminole County school officials.

"My goal throughout this process has been to defend my daughter's religious liberty. 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," Marco Perez said.

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