By Lauren Roth, Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. — School officials said Wednesday they can’t find any evidence to suggest that a kindergartner was told not to pray in a Seminole County elementary lunchroom.
“We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred,” said district spokesman Mike Lawrence. “There’s no proof whatsoever.”
A district attorney sent a letter to the girl’s family and their lawyer outlining their conclusions.
“We apologized for the incident she believes occurred, but there was nothing warranted or found” in the investigation, Lawrence said.
Five-year-old Gabriella Perez told her parents that in March a staffer at Carillon Elementary in Oviedo stopped her from praying over her lunch.
Her father, Marcos Perez, who works for a Christian book publisher in Lake Mary that is promoting a book about the “attack on traditional values” in America, demanded an investigation and apology from the school.
Earlier this month, the girl and her parents described the incident to school officials. According to Lawrence, she was unable to identify a staffer from a selection of photos provided by the district but instead identified an adult from the school’s website. The family’s attorney had previously described the process as a lineup.
As for the identified staffer, a school district investigator has concluded that “there is no way possible that person was anywhere near the lunchroom” that kindergarten and first-graders use. In addition to the student and her family, the district has interviewed staffers, the accused adult and Gabriella’s classmates, Lawrence said.
Perez and family attorney Jeremiah Dys could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
The district declined to release the name of the adult pointed out by Gabriella because the evidence did not find any wrongdoing. No discipline is forthcoming, Lawrence said.
The girl’s allegations spurred national news coverage by Fox News and conservative Christian publications, and the school received threatening phone calls.
“For what the school endured, this is very vindicating,” Lawrence said.
Photo: Vicki’s Pics via Flickr