White Headmaster at New York Catholic School Forced a Black Student to Kneel and Apologize to His Teacher

Illustration for article titled White Headmaster at New York Catholic School Forced a Black Student to Kneel and Apologize to His Teacher
Photo: creo2 (Shutterstock)

Time and time again, we’ve seen educators show their complete asses when it comes to doing the bare minimum to not be racist. A white headmaster at a Catholic school in Long Island is on leave after forcing a Black student to kneel and apologize to his teacher.

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According to the Washington Post, John Holian, headmaster of St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, was confronted by Trisha Paul earlier this month after her son, Trayson, told her what he experienced at school. Trayson told his mother that he began working ahead on a written assignment while the rest of the class was still doing a reading assignment.

His teacher responded by ripping up his worksheet in front of the class and then had the audacity to tell Trayson that he was the distraction. Maybe it’s just me, but a teacher making a big show of punishing a student for working ahead on an assignment is infinitely more distracting than a kid quietly doing an assignment.

The teacher then took Trayson to Holian’s office, who demanded he kneel before the teacher and apologize to her. Paul was disturbed by what her son had told her, and when she asked Holian about the incident during a phone call, he admitted what had happened and said that he got the idea from a Nigerian father who used a similar form of discipline on his son.

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

From the Washington Post:

“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.”

On March 4, Paul met with Holian in his office. The headmaster, according to Paul, repeated the story about the Nigerian parent, adding that “he felt that if he apologized standing up it wouldn’t have been genuine.”

Paul was not convinced by Holian’s arguments. “This incident only occurred because my son is Black,” Paul said.

The incident has had a lasting effect on her son, Paul said. At first, he repeatedly asked questions like, “Why me?” and “Why do some people treat me differently because I’m Black?” but then became reserved and quiet. In early March, she placed him on remote learning instead of sending him back to class.

“He’s just hurt and humiliated,” Paul said.

Outside of being flat-out racist, Holian also ignored a key aspect of the story he told: It was the boy’s father who used that form of discipline. Neither Holian nor Trayson are Nigerian, and Holian is not that boy’s father.

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While Holian has been put on leave by the school pending an investigation, there is no word on what disciplinary actions the teacher has faced. The way I see it, she’s just as responsible for what happened to Trayson, as it doesn’t sound like she pushed back against Holian suggesting Trayson kneel.

“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,” Paul told the Post.

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The school’s acting headmaster, James Conway, sent an email to parents condemning Holian’s actions.

“I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster,” Conway wrote in the email. “The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student related issues.”

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Paul has hired an attorney and is currently weighing whether or not to send Trayson back to the school. While she would like to see Holian fired and the faculty go through racial sensitivity training, she ultimately feels like the damage has been done with regards to Trayson.

“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,” Paul told the Post.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.

DISCUSSION

thedamesgotmoxie
LaRockyMay!

As someone who did 13 years of Catholic school alongside a Nigerian girl, color me not surprised; her father loped off her BEAUTIFUL twists in a random manner all willy-nilly when we were in high school because he felt my friend’s vanity had her spending too much time on her looks instead of studying. It was awful; she came to school the day afrer he did it was humiliated and broken, and we were humiliated and broken for her, and cried along with her.

Luckily one of our friend’s hair-stylist mother cut her hair so it was all even again, and she wore a knit cap around her father at home so he couldn’t see that that his “haircut” had been fixed, and to give him the illusion that she had stopped focusing on her looks.