White headmaster resigns after forcing Black student to kneel and apologise the ‘African way’

Isobel van Hagen
Thursday 25 March 2021 16:12
news
(St Martin de Porres Marianist school (Google Streetview))

The white headmaster of a Catholic school has resigned after he ordered a Black student to kneel and apologise ‘the African way’.

While John Holian, head of St Martin de Porres Marianist school on Long Island, apologised for the incident earlier this week, he will now no longer be working at the school.

Holian stepped down after he ordered an 11-year-old Black sixth-grade student to kneel and apologise to his teacher, according to the boy’s horrified mother Trisha Paul.

She added he had been forced to do this after completing an assignment after finishing his reading early. He was sent to the headmaster’s office, where Holian asked him to kneel in apology.

In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Paul said she had brought up the incident with the headmaster, and his explanation left her “filled with all different types of emotion”.

"I asked him what happened," she said in the interview. "He began to tell me a story about an African family that attended the school many years ago."

The headmaster, according to Paul, told her he’d learnt the disciplinary approach from a Nigerian father who said it was an “African way” of apologising.

"I was just at a loss for words," Paul, who, along with her son, is Black and of Haitian descent, told CNN. "I didn’t understand the relevance."

“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked. 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 realised something is not right with this situation,’ she told local paper NY Daily News in a different interview.

And so on Wednesday, the school announced Holian has resigned from his position:

“The leadership of St. Martin de Porres Marianist School continues to review the incident in question to ensure that it is never repeated again in any form,” the school’s statement said.

It added, “It is important to assure students, parents, and faculty that this incident does not reflect our long, established value of respect for the individual or the established protocols regarding student-related issues.”

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