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White Headmaster Made Black Student Get on Knees to Apologize the ‘African Way,’ Mother Says


The white headmaster of a Catholic school in Uniondale, New York made a Black student kneel to apologize the “African way,” said the child’s mother, according to The New York Daily News.

This allegedly happened at St. Martin de Porres Marianist School. Mother Trisha Paul said that her son Trayson got in trouble back on February 25. The 11-year-old boy ended a reading assignment early. He started on another task, but the teacher ripped up the paper for working on the incorrect project, Paul said. The teacher had Trayson go to the office of headmaster John Patrick Holian.

In this account, the administrator gave a peculiar order. He told the 11-year-old to kneel and apologize. Paul said she spoke to Holian about this on the phone on March 1, and got the headmaster to admit kneeling apologies were not standard practice at the school. The administrator’s explanation for it was an anecdote in which a Nigerian father said it was an “African way” to say sorry.

“I asked the headmaster how the story was relevant,” Paul, who is Haitian-American, said. She said she did not get a straightforward answer.

“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,” she said. “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.”

Holian asserted in a recorded, in-person meeting that this was a race-neutral thing. He reportedly said that it would have meant nothing if he simply told the 11-year-old to apologize. The headmaster insisted that he sometimes makes his own kids do a kneeling apology if they are “really acting rude and arrogant.”

“I was speaking to your son as I would my own son,” he said.

Paul asserted to the Daily News that Holian “showed no remorse until he realized how it’s impacted my son.” Now she says her son is reluctant to start up in-person classes again.

The school told parents in a letter on Friday that Holian is on leave.

“I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster,” wrote Acting headmaster James Conway.

The school did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment on Monday.

[Screengrab via WABC]

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