In The School

School Stops 5-Year-Old’s Lunchtime Prayer


Gabriella Perez

The Big Picture

When 5-year-old Gabriella Perez innocently bowed her head over her lunch at school, she was stopped by a school employee, and told “it was wrong to pray.” Liberty Institute took fast action to protect Gabriella’s religious freedom and ensure the incident never happened again.

Why This Case Matters

The Supreme Court held over half a century ago that students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.’ Sadly, aggressive anti-faith groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the ACLU have created a culture of fear inside our nation’s schools – to the point that a 5-year-old child is told by school officials to stop praying over her school lunch!

The Facts

  • At Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida, 5-year-old Gabriella Perez bowed her head over her lunch to pray.
  • A school employee passing by noticed Gabriella and instructed her to stop. When the young girl told the monitor, “But it’s good to pray,” she was told, “It is not good.”
  • Gabriella tried to say Grace again, but, in her words, “they caught me.”
  • Liberty Institute attorneys sent a demand letter to school administrators on behalf of the Perez family, asking school officials to apologize to the Perez family and assure their community that such religious discrimination – which is in violation of federal and state law – would never happen again.
  • Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys held a press conference with the Perez family to bring attention to this very serious matter.
  • A week following, Dys and the Perez family were called down to the school principal’s office so that Gabriella could tell the principal (and school attorney) what happened, reenact the incident, and even participate in a lineup in which she positively identified the school employee.
  • After the meeting, school officials—who initially denied the incident took place—opened a full investigation.
  • After a thorough investigation, Seminole County Schools offered an apology to the Perez family, retrained their employees on matters involving student religious liberty, and reassured the community that such a violation of the First Amendment, state and federal law, and Supreme Court precedent will never happen again.

What You Can Do

To continue to help students across the country, we need your support! Please consider a gift today! Each gift is critical and every dollar donated multiplies in value thanks to the world-class attorneys that volunteer their time to the cause of religious freedom.

Also, if you know of any student, teacher or school district facing this type of hostility, please have them contact us at 972-941-4444, or through email at info@libertyinstitute.org.

If you have any questions on religious freedom in the school, please take a minute to check out our Student Bill of Rights – FAQ.

 

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