KEY POINTS

  • The child was forced to kneel because he did the wrong assignment
  • The headmaster said he learned the disciplinary practice from a Nigerian father
  • Parents received an email assuring them that the school does not condone such a practice

The headmaster of a Catholic school in New York allegedly forced a black student, 11, to kneel while giving an apology to a teacher. According to the boy’s mother, he was told that kneeling during an apology was the way Africans did it. 

The Daily News reports that St. Martin de Porres Marianist School’s headmaster was put on leave temporarily after the incident on Feb. 25 was exposed by the black child’s mother.

Trisha Paul, the mother of the black child, told the Daily News that Trayson, her son, completed his reading assignment early on that day and decided to take another assignment out.

Paul stated that the English teacher scolded Trayson for taking an assignment he wasn’t supposed to. This led the teacher to rip up his paper and escort him to the office of the headmaster, John Holian.

Holian reportedly told the 11-year-old sixth-grader to kneel down and apologize to the English teacher.

Due to the nature of the incident, Paul called the school on March 1 and asked Holian if it was their standard to discipline students by forcing them to kneel.

Paul said that during the call, Holian claimed that while it wasn’t the standard, he learned the method of apology from a Nigerian father that taught it to him as a way Africans apologized.

Paul, who is a Haitian American, said that she realized something was wrong once Holian mentioned an African family. She said that it isn’t normal and that she felt that it shouldn’t be relevant. “Is he generalizing that everyone who is black is African?," she said to the Daily News.

After what Holian said, Paul realized that there was something significantly wrong with what was happening.

On Friday, parents were sent an email by school officials stating that Holian was placed on temporary leave while they investigate the incident, reported ABC 7

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

Paul shares that her usually outgoing son has since been reserved after what happened. Black children in the United States have a 3.5 times greater risk of dying from an operation than white children, according to a study based on tens of thousands of children Black children in the United States have a 3.5 times greater risk of dying from an operation than white children, according to a study based on tens of thousands of children Photo: AFP / Joël SAGET