A Catholic school has sparked outrage after its headmaster allegedly forced a Black student to apologize to his teacher while kneeling.
The headteacher called it “the African way.”
John Holian, headmaster at the St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, has been placed on a leave of absence from the Long Island school. The incident is currently being investigated.
Tuition at St. Martin is $15,000 per year.
“The manner in which he disciplined a St. Martin’s student was not consistent with the policies and philosophy of St. Martin’s,” the letter read. “I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster. The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student related issues.”
Trisha Paul said her 11-year-old son Trayson, 11, has not been the same since the incident, which took place on Feb. 25.
“My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad and confused,” Paul told The New York Daily News. “He reads about things happening because of your skin color. To experience it… he’s just trying to process it in his 11-year-old brain.”
She said when she spoke to Holian over the phone, he allegedly told her that he’d learned the act of kneeling while issuing an apology from a Nigerian father of a former student who’d informed him it was the “African way” of apologizing.
Paul was floored.
“When he finished telling this story, I was just on the phone baffled,” Paul told the Washington Post. “My child is not Nigerian. We don’t share the same cultures or beliefs. You’re assuming that because my child is Black that he must kneel down as well.”
Whatever Holian’s reasons, his actions were wholly inappropriate. Paul wants justice for her son, who she says has been left traumatized by the incident.
She added: “This was a racist act. In other schools when they are disciplined, it’s detention, it’s extra homework, there are other ways to discipline a child. But degrading a child, humiliating them off the basis of generalizing him because he’s just a Black boy, makes no sense.”
She has since hired an attorney.