The Never-Ending Tale Of The Little Girl Who Could Not Pray

Last week, we wrote a post about the fact that the story at the center of a recent column by Todd Starnes claiming that a young girl had supposedly been told that she was not allow to pray before eating her lunch at school had been definitively debunked after the shool in question conducted an investigation and "found zero evidence an incident ever occurred."

In a gesture of goodwill, the school offered an apology to the family nonetheless and it was seemingly accepted through their attorney, Jeremy Dys of the Liberty Institute, who issued a statement saying:

"We are grateful for the apology offered by Seminole County Schools. The Perez family gladly accepts this apology, along with the assurances to the community by the School Board that students in Seminole County School are free to exercise their First Amendment freedoms while at school."

That should have been the end of the entire saga, but apparently Dys and the family are intent on keeping it going (presumably to benefit Todd Starnes forthcoming book) a little longer and have now reversed course by rejecting the school's apology, accusing the school of never having done an investigation in the first place, and threatening legal action:

Two days after stating that Gabriella Perez's family had accepted the apology, lawyer Jeremy Dys said their position changed after reading the comments of district spokesman Michael Lawrence in the Orlando Sentinel.

Dys said it is clear now the district's response wasn't "a real apology." In addition, "we're not really confident the investigation actually took place," he said.

He sent a letter to Seminole schools on Friday requesting video footage from the school, emails to or about the family and phone logs relating to the case, including documentation of harassing or negative phone calls.

Gabriella, a 5-year-old kindergartner, told her parents that a staffer at Carillon Elementary said she could not pray over her lunch sometime in March. Lawrence, the district spokesman, said Wednesday an investigation had turned up "zero evidence" the incident occurred.

The girl's father, Marcos Perez, is vice president of sales for a Christian book publisher promoting a book about "the attack on traditional values" in America. The family began homeschooling Gabriella after she described the cafeteria incident.

Dys' letter also claims Lawrence made "false and defamatory statements publicly and intentionally" about Gabriella and her family, and requested that he be disciplined.

"Mr. Lawrence went out and essentially called our client a liar," Dys said Friday.

The school district did an investigation into the alleged incident and concluded that "there's no proof whatsoever" that it even occurred and that the person identified by the young girl as having told her not to pray was nowhere near the lunchroom at the time it supposedly happened ... and now the very people who brought these allegations are threatening legal action, claiming that they are the victims of "false and defamatory statements" because their claims turned out to be bogus.

Filed Under