A Long Island mother says the white principal at her son’s Catholic school forced the 11-year-old black student to kneel while apologizing and later explained that the punishment was “an African way.”
UNIONDALE, NY – The white principal of a Catholic school in New York forced an 11-year-old black student to kneel while apologizing to a teacher and later explained that the punishment was “an African way,” the boy’s mother said.
Principal John Holian of St. Martin de Porres Marianist School on Long Island was put on temporary leave after details of the February 25 incident came to light, the Daily News reports.
The student’s mother, Trisha Paul, told the newspaper that her son, Trayson, finished his reading early that day and took another homework assignment.
Paul said the boy’s English teacher reprimanded Trayson for working on the wrong assignment, tore up the paper, and took him to Holian’s office, where the principal told the sixth-grader to get down on his knees and apologize to the teacher. .
Paul said he called the school on March 1 and asked Holian if forcing students to kneel was standard disciplinary practice.
Holian said no, but added that he had learned the approach from a Nigerian father who said it was an “African way” of apologizing, Paul said.
“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it clicked,” Paul, who is Haitian-American, told the newspaper. “Like, this is not a normal procedure. I felt that it had no relevance. Are you generalizing that everyone who is black is African? It was then that I realized that something was not right in this situation. “
The newspaper said that after asking questions about forced kneeling, school officials emailed the parents saying Holian had been placed on temporary leave pending an investigation.
“I want to assure you that St. Martin’s does not approve or accept the actions of our director,” Acting Director James Conway wrote in the email Friday. “The incident does not reflect our long-established values or established protocols regarding student-related issues.”
The newspaper said Holian himself declined to comment on the details of Paul’s complaint, saying only that “we love our students here” and noting that the “vast majority” are students of color.
Paul said his normally outgoing son has been reserved since the incident.
“My son was humiliated, hurt, ashamed, sad and confused,” he said. “Read about things that happen because of the color of your skin. Experience it. … he’s just trying to process it in his 11-year-old brain. “