Editors note: Marcos Perez is employed by Charisma House – which is publishing Todd Starnes’ next book.
A Florida school district is giving teachers a refresher course on religious liberty after the parents of a five-year-old kindergarten student said a teacher told their daughter that she was not allowed to pray before eating her lunch time meal.
Marcos Perez, of Oviedo, Fla., said the incident occurred earlier this month in the lunch room at Carillon Elementary School.
He said his daughter was sitting at a table about to eat when she bowed her head and began to pray.
“A teacher saw her and told her, ‘you’re not allowed to do that,’” he said.
Perez said his little girl replied, “But it’s good to pray.” The teacher alleged replied, “It’s not good.”
He said his daughter tried to pray once more but was admonished by the teacher. The child was not formally punished, he said.
“She’s a really good girl and if there are rules, she follows them,” he said. “She knows the biblical values we are raising her with. She was really conflicted but she wanted to submit to the authority.”
Perez said he and his wife were so upset over the incident they sat down with a video camera and had their daughter recount what happened. They posted the video to YouTube. And they also tried to reassure their daughter that she had done nothing wrong.
“We tried to reaffirm to her and let her know that according to our own family values and according to the biblical values we are raising our children in that she did nothing wrong,” Perez said.
He fired off a letter to the principal.
“My 5-year old should not feel conflicted about prayer with respect to trying to follow rules or authority,” he wrote. “We remain speechless that our daughter had to experience from an individual with an agenda.”
The principal responded to Perez’s concerns in an email. She said she had spoken to the adults in the lunchroom and that none of them recalled having a conversation with his daughter.
“Please know that students are permitted to pray during school,” the principal wrote. “I will remind all staff members of this.”
Seminole County Public Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence told me there is no policy banning lunch room prayers.
“Students are permitted to pray before their meal,” he said, while pointing out that students cannot cause a disruption with their prayer.
He said they’ve been unable to independently verify the incident happened. But if it did – he said it was more than likely a case of miscommunication.
The Perez family said they are now going to home school their daughter.
“This definitely pushed us over,” he said. “We’ve long had concerns about Common Core and issues and agendas we see in the culture war.”
It’s disappointing, he said, because they bought a house in that area of Florida because of the academic reputation of Seminole County.
“We are very upset about this,” he said.