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NY headmaster on leave after reportedly telling black student to kneel during apology — in the ‘African way’

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The child's mother confronted the headmaster over the allegation

Image source: WNBC-TV video screenshot

A New York school headmaster is on leave after he told an 11-year-old black student to kneel while apologizing, the child's mother said.

The incident took place at St. Martin de Porres Marianist School in Uniondale, New York, in February.

What are the details?

John Holian, headmaster at the Long Island Catholic school, is on temporary leave after he reportedly told 11-year-old Trayson Paul to kneel during an apology for working on the wrong assignment during class. The child's mother, Trisha Paul, said the discipline occured in February.

Upon arriving at the headmaster's office, Holian reportedly told the child to get on his knees during the apology.

When Paul called the headmaster, he reportedly told her that he encouraged her son to get down on his knees to apologize because it was the "African way."

Holian reportedly told Paul that he decided to discipline Trayson in that way after he saw a Nigerian father of a former student encourage his son to apologize in such a way.

"This father came in and said, 'You're going to apologize to this teacher the African way, and you're going to get down on your knees and apologize," Paul said Holian told her.

Paul, who is of Haitian descent, told the Washington Post that she was reeling after the discussion.

"When he finished telling me this story, I was just on the phone baffled," she recalled. "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."

WNBC-TV reported that a letter addressed to the school's parents announced Holian's leave of absence pending an investigation into the incident.

A portion of the letter stated, "We have launched an internal review of the incident and restated in the clearest terms what is the established and approved practice for student-faculty interaction."

The letter also noted that the incident was "not consistent with the policies and philosophy of St. Martin's."

The Post noted that the school's acting headmaster, James Conway, told parents that the school "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," Conway's message added.

Paul said that her son was "humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad, and confused."

“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.

"This was a racist act," she told the Post. "In other schools when they are disciplined, it's detention, it's extra work, 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."

According to the outlet, Paul, a hospital administrator who shells out approximately $15,000 a year for her son to attend the private school, has hired an attorney and is unsure about whether she will send her son back to the school.

She is now demanding that Holian step down as headmaster.

“As much as an apology would be great, I don't think it would erase anything of the impact it's had on my child," she added.

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