John Patrick Holian Long Island headmaster forces Trayson Paul, black sixth grade student to kneel to apologize to teacher according to student’s mother, Trisha.
A white headmaster of a $15,000-a-year Long Island Catholic school is alleged to have forced a Black 11-year-old student to kneel down and apologize to a teacher — calling it the ‘African way’ to seek forgiveness.
John Patrick Holian, the headmaster at St. Martin de Porres Marianist School in Uniondale, New York, has been placed on leave while the school investigates.
On February 25, Trayson was in English class when he finished a reading assignment and started a different task because he wanted to get a head start, according to his mother, Trisha Paul.
That’s when Trayson was reprimanded by the un-named teacher for doing the wrong assignment, Paul of Hempstead, L.I. said.
A white Long Island Catholic school headmaster forced a Black 11-year-old student to kneel down and apologize to a teacher — calling it the “African way” to say sorry.
The mother was shocked when the headmaster said he learned it from a Nigerian father.https://t.co/NJhUibQ21j
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) March 21, 2021
The African way…
The teacher took Trayson to the headmaster’s office. It was there that Holian allegedly told Trayson to kneel and say sorry.
Holian is said to have told Trayson that kneeling and apologizing was a method of seeking forgiveness that the headmaster learned from a Nigerian father of a former student who claimed it was the ‘African way.’
Haiti is a mostly impoverished island in the Caribbean.
‘Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,’ Paul told the Daily News.
‘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.’
The boy’s mother said that the family believes Trayson was treated more harshly due to his race.
This is not the South. This is New York. #TheDevilYouKnow
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) March 21, 2021
Boy, 11, left humiliated, hurt & embarrassed
She said her son, who is normally an outgoing and socially active kid, has become ‘really reserved’ since the incident. As a result, he has started to see a therapist, according to Paul.
‘My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad and confused,’ the student’s mother told the Daily News.
‘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.’
Holian told the Daily News that ‘we love our students here’ while noting that the ‘vast majority’ of matriculated kids are students of color, though he declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations.
On Friday, school officials sent an email to parents informing them that Holian was placed on temporary leave while the matter was being investigated.
‘I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster,’ acting headmaster James Conway wrote to parents in the email.
‘I thought he was in a safe, a warm and loving environment’
‘The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student related issues.’
Paul, who works in hospital administration, said that she enrolled her son in the school last fall.
‘I did my research,’ she said.
‘I placed him where I thought he was in a safe, a warm and loving environment where I thought he would learn.’
She said that when Trayson told him about being forced to kneel, she initially gave the school the benefit of the doubt.
But on March 1 she asked Holian about the incident over the phone.
When she wondered if forcing students to kneel was a common practice to mete out discipline, Holian acknowledged that it wasn’t, according to Paul.
That’s when the headmaster told the mother of the anecdote about the Nigerian family.
‘I asked the headmaster how the story was relevant,’ Paul said. ‘The headmaster did not give a clear response,’ she said.
Would a white boy have been similarly punished in the African way?
The mother said she was left with the impression that Holian thought the punishment was appropriate simply because Trayson was black.
Paul then met Holian face to face on March 4. The Daily News says that it obtained a recording of the meeting.
‘It was a situation where your son was really disrespectful and rude to a teacher in front of the other students,’ Holian told Paul.
‘The whole idea is for your son to see he can’t speak to women that way.’
Paul said that the school never complained in the past about her son’s behavior, noting that Trayson is a ‘well-mannered, honor roll student.’
In the recording, Holian is alleged to have told Paul that forcing Trayson to kneel was a way to ensure that the apology was sincere.
‘If I had said to him “Apologize and get back to class”… it would’ve meant nothing,’ Holian is quoted as saying.
‘So it was changing the way you say “I apologize”.’
Holian is reported to have told Paul that he was told about the kneeling apology by the Nigerian father of a former student at the school.
Institutional bias exposed
‘This father came in and said, “You’re going to apologize to this teacher the African way, and you’re going to get down on your knees and apologize”,’ the Daily News quotes Holian as saying.
‘I’ve never seen that before.’
Holian said that left an impression on him and that he thought it was an appropriate way to discipline all children regardless of race.
‘I have six kids, and four boys. And if one of them is really acting rude and arrogant… I will say at times, “Get on your knees and apologize”,’ Holian is reported to have told Paul.
‘I was speaking to your son as I would my own son.’
Holian is then reported to have told Paul: ‘I’m sorry if you’re upset. It wasn’t a thought-out situation.’
Paul said she has no plans to accept Holian’s apology.
‘He showed no remorse until he realized how it’s impacted my son,’ Paul said.
‘He’s going to therapy. He’s been very reserved and humiliated.’
She said Trayson has been traumatized to the point where he is fearful of going back to in-person instruction and tries to avoid the headmaster and teacher.
While Paul said that placing Holian on leave is a ‘step in the right direction,’ the school needs to do more.
The mother has reportedly hired a lawyer.
‘What else can happen where it doesn’t occur again to any other African-American or Haitian-American students there?’ she asked.