You may recall that a few weeks ago Todd Starnes promoted a story about a kindergarten student who was allegedly told that she could not pray before eating lunch in the cafeteria. Turns out the student’s father is an executive with the company about to publish Starnes’ next book, conveniently about Christian persecution. An investigation concluded that it’s all nonsense:
School officials said Wednesday that they can’t find any evidence to suggest that a kindergartner was told not to pray in a Seminole County elementary lunchroom.
But the school district apologized anyway, and a lawyer for the girl’s parents said they are satisfied with the outcome.
“We found zero evidence an incident ever occurred,” said district spokesman Mike Lawrence. “There’s no proof whatsoever.”…
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 kindergartners 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.
There have been genuine incidents around the country where a teacher or administrator has told a student that they can’t read their Bible, or a couple famous cases where they told a student they can’t hand out candy canes at Christmas time with Bible verses attached to them. But those are almost always the result of ignorance, not malice, and are quickly resolved by the school. But Starnes and the parents of this student have a tall tale to tell, one of imagined Christian persecution, which is why such stories should be considered suspect until they are confirmed.