A lunch monitor at Carillon Elementary in Florida allegedly told a student not to pray over her meal. The only hitch? Five-year-old Gabriella Perez is the only one who can verify the story.
“I got my lunch and I was about to pray and say something to Jesus,” the girl explained, “and my lunch teacher told me that, when I was about to say something, she said, ‘You’re not allowed to pray.’”
Gabriella’s parents posted the story on YouTube March 25. The video already has more than 88,000 views:
The story certainly leaves room for skepticism. For example, if the event occurred the week of March 10, why wait until March 25 to post the video and even later to contact the school? There is also the fact that Gabriella’s father is vice president of sales at Charisma House, a Christian book publisher.
However, Marcos and Kathy Perez, the child’s parents, are adamant it is more than just a child’s fable.
"She wanted to pray, but she's a rule-follower," Kathy Perez said at a news conference Tuesday, "I told her she did the right thing. I don't doubt for a minute that my daughter is telling the truth.”
The school responded to the Perez’s concerns with the following:
Mr. Perez, I received your email and your voice message this morning. I have spoken to each adult who was in the lunchroom at the time that your daughter had lunch yesterday. None of them recall having this conversation with your daughter.
Please know that students are permitted to pray during school. I will remind all staff members of this.
Liberty Institute, a Texas based law firm, has demanded a more in-depth investigation as well as a letter of apology, according to Fox News:
"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."
School district spokesman Michael Lawrence said that its possible that since no one remember this incident occurring that its possible "a child that age may have misinterpreted something."
Pitting the word of a five-year-old against a school district would be a difficult situation. However, if Gabriella’s claim is authentic, it is an egregious violation of the First Amendment. The Perez’s have pulled their child out of Carillon Elementary to begin homeschooling.