The white headmaster at a Catholic school on Long Island humiliated a Black student by ordering him to kneel and apologize to a teacher because that was the “African way,” the child’s mother told the New York Daily News.
“My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad and confused,” Trisha Paul, who is Haitian-America, 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 incident happened on Feb. 25 at St. Martin de Porres Marianist school, where Paul’s son was punished for working on the wrong assignment in class. The sixth-grader was taken to headmaster John Holian office and told to get on his knees and apologize to the teacher.
Holian’s explanation was that keeling is the “African way” to say sorry, Paul said. The headmaster claimed that he learned that punishment from a Nigerian father of a former student.
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“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,” said Paul. “Like, this is not normal procedure. I felt there was no relevance at all. Is he generalizing that everyone who is Black is African? That’s when I realized something is not right with this situation.”
After the newspaper began asking questions about the incident, school officials announced that they placed Holian on temporary leave while an investigation is ongoing.
“I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster,” the acting headmaster James Conway wrote in an email. “The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student related issues.”