The shocking alleged incident took place at St Martin de Porres Marianist school
The white headmaster of a New York Catholic school reportedly ordered an 11-year-old black student to apologise to his teacher “the African way”.
John Holian, head of St Martin de Porres Marianist school in Long Island, instructed the sixth grade pupil to kneel down while saying sorry, the boy’s mother Trisha Paul said.
When she questioned him on the incident, Holian allegedly explained to her that he’d learnt the disciplinary approach from a Nigerian father who said it was an “African way” of apologising.
“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,” Paul, who is Haitian American, told the New York Daily News.
“Like, this is not normal procedure. I felt there was no relevance at all. Is he generalising that everyone who is Black is African? That’s when I realized something is not right with this situation,” she added.
Paul told the newspaper that her son Trayson had finished his reading early that day and took out another assignment.
She said the boy’s English teacher told him off for working on the wrong assignment, ripped up the paper and marched him to Holian’s office, where the headmaster told him to get down on his knees and apologise.
The horrified mother said she called the school on March 1 and asked Holian if forcing students to kneel was standard disciplinary practice.
Holian admitted that it wasn’t but added that he’d learned the approach from a Nigerian parent.
Responding to Paul’s claims, the headmaster insisted “we love our students here” and said the “vast majority” were “students of colour”.
However, Holian has now been placed on temporary leave pending a full investigation, according to the Daily News.
Acting headmaster James Conway wrote in an email obtained by the publication: “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.”
Paul said her normally outgoing son had been quiet and reserved since the incident.
“My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad and confused,” she said. “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.”