Praying 5-year-old’s family demands formal apology from school for trying to stop her

The family of a 5-year-old kindergarten girl who was ordered by a lunchroom worker to stop praying is calling a news conference today to demand a formal apology from the Florida school district and the principal of the school where the event took place.

girlpray0401In a letter to the Seminole County school board, Liberty Institute attorney Jeremiah Dys noted that during the incident, publicized by BizPac Review’s Michele Kirk on March 27,  the girl was twice “restrained from bowing her head, folding her hands, and silently saying grace.”

The girl is the daughter of Marcos and Kathy Perez. While the couple posted a short interview with girl on YouTube, they are not publicizing her first name.

In the letter, Dys noted numerous Supreme Court precedents that clearly establish a distinction between school-controlled, government-sponsored prayer and the freedom of individual students to pray as they please in a school setting.

“There is nothing in the law that would permit a  school official to engage in viewpoint discrimination and everything in the law to suggest the strongest of constitutional protections to our client’s daughter — and all of the students in Seminole  County Schools  – to fully engage their First Amendment freedoms while at school,” Dys wrote.The lunchroom action “is a violation of federal law and we expect the school district to apologize to the Perezes and the community as well as take steps to ensure this does not happen again,” Dys wrote.“Just  because a lunchroom supervisor – an official of the state school – may not agree with the practice of prayer does not give this supervisor the freedom to insert the state’s beliefs for that of the student,” Dys wrote.

“Thanking God for the blessing and provision of food by a 5-year-old girl is not a sufficient rationale for a school official to censor the free exercise of religion by a student,” Dys wrote.

In the letter, Dys set a deadline of April 7 for Seminole school officials to apologize or face possible legal action.

If you haven’t seen the Perez video yet, watch it now. If you’ve already seen it, watch it again.

It will touch your heart.

UPDATE: In a story published Tuesday, Seminole County school officials told the Orlando Sentinel they had been unable to find an adult who could recall the incident and said “a child that age may have misinterpreted something.”

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Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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