White headmaster placed on leave after forcing Black student to kneel during apology
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A White headmaster at a Catholic school in Long Island, N.Y., has been placed on leave after he forced a Black sixth grader to kneel while apologizing to a teacher.

John Holian of St. Martin de Porres Marianist School is under investigation for the incident.

“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. 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,” acting headmaster James Conway said in a statement on Monday.


St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster. The incident does not reflect our long,...

Posted by St. Martin de Porres Marianist School on Monday, March 22, 2021

The child’s mother, Trisha Paul, told The Washington Post that the incident occurred last month.

Her 11-year-old son Trayson told her that he had begun working on an assignment ahead of time, while the class was still reading the text. The teacher allegedly ripped his worksheet in front of the class, chastised him for failing to following instructions and took him to Holian’s office.

Paul’s son confided in his mother the day it happened but she was too shaken to immediately confront the headmaster, the mother said. When Holian called on March 1 to discuss First Communion plans, she asked him what had happened.

“He admitted that he asked him to kneel down,” Paul said. “He didn’t acknowledge what happened was wrong or how I felt. … He wasn’t remorseful or apologetic at all.”

Holian reportedly told Paul that he had asked Trayson to kneel when apologizing because he had once seen a man from Nigeria do so with his son. He described the punishment as the “African and the Nigerian way.”

“When he finished telling this story, I was just on the phone baffled,” said Paul, who is Haitian American. “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.”

When Holian and Paul met a few days later in his office, Paul said the educator reportedly added that “he felt that if he [Trayson] apologized standing up it wouldn’t have been genuine.”

Paul, a hospital administrator, told the outlet that her son was singled out for a unique punishment because he is Black.

“This was a racist act,” Paul said. “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.”

Trayson is “just hurt and humiliated,” according to his mom.

Paul placed her son in remote learning earlier this month instead of sending him back to class, as well as hiring an attorney.


She called for Holian to resign and said St. Martin’s should implement racial sensitivity training.

“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 said.

The school, located in the suburb of Uniondale, has more than 400 students. Paul enrolled her son last October for a more challenging curriculum and pays nearly $15,000 a year in tuition.