The white headmaster at a Catholic school on Long Island was placed on temporary leave after reportedly telling a Black student to kneel and apologize to a teacher, the boy’s mother said.
Trisha Paul, who is Haitian-American, told the Daily News her son was disciplined on Feb. 25 for working on the wrong assignment in class and after he was taken to the headmaster’s office, was instructed to get on his knees and apologize because it was the “African Way.”
Paul phoned the headmaster, John Holian, days later to question him about the disciplinary practice used on her son, she told the paper. He later told her the kneeling practice was something he picked up from a Nigerian father of a former student, according to Paul.
“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,'” he allegedly told Paul.
The mother said she pushed back, asking the headmaster how that punishment was relevant to her son, according to the Daily News.
A letter addressed to the parents of St. Martin de Porres Marianist School announced the headmaster’s leave of absence while officials investigate the alleged disciplinary actions used last month.
The letter does not go into specific detail of what discipline was used in the February incident, but acknowledged that it was “not consistent with the policies and philosophy of St. Martin’s.”
“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 read.
The boy is “still reeling” from the encounter and has been uncharacteristically reserved, his mother said.
“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.”
The Daily News said Holian declined to comment on the specifics of Paul’s complaint and school officials could not be reached.