School officials find no evidence of kindergartener being told not to pray at lunchtime

Marcos Perez
YouTube screenshot

An investigation in the case of a Florida kindergartener being told not to pray has found that the alleged March incident never occurred.

Seminole County School District officials announced on April 23 that there is no evidence that Gabriella Perez was stopped from praying, or told that praying is wrong.

"We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred," district spokesman Mike Lawrence told the Orlando Sentinel. "There's no proof whatsoever."

Marcos and Kathy Perez alleged that during the week of March 10, their daughter bowed her head to pray over her food at lunchtime, and was stopped by a teacher.

"My lunch teacher told me that, when I was about to say something, she said, 'You're not allowed to pray,'" Gabriella recounted in a YouTube video.

Gabriella said she told the teacher, "It's good to pray," to which the teacher allegedly responded, "It's not good."

Two weeks ago, Gabriella identified the teacher who allegedly stopped her from praying, but the investigation showed "there is no way possible that person was anywhere near the lunchroom," Lawrence said.

Carillon Elementary School officials also interviewed students, staff members, Gabriella, Mr. and Mrs. Perez, and the accused teacher during the course of their investigation.

The teacher's name has not been released, and the district stated that she will not receive any disciplinary action.

Gabriella's story received national press, and her father's YouTube video has received over 100,000 views. Lawrence stated that the school received harassing phone calls because of the coverage.

"For what the school endured, this is very vindicating," Lawrence said.

Lawrence expressed doubt in Gabriella's recollection of events from the outset.

"We're dealing with very young children here so there's quite a bit of an opportunity for miscommunication to occur," he told WKMG Orlando in March. "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."

Neither the Perez family nor their attorney, Jeremiah Dys of the Liberty Institute, have released a statement regarding the district's findings.

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