White Headmaster Forced Haitian American Student To Kneel In Apology

John Holihan, a Uniondale Catholic school head master, forced a Haitian American student to kneel in apology. (Newsday image)
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News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C. Thurs. Mar. 25, 2021: A white headmaster at a Long Island school has been placed on temporary leave after it was revealed that he forced a Haitian American student to kneel in apology.

John Holian, of St. Martin de Porres Marianist school in Uniondale on Long Island, was sent on leave after the mother of 11-year-old Trayson Paul, made the complaint following the incident of Feb. 25, 2021 at the New York Catholic school.

Trisha Paul, Trayson’s mother, told reporters that her son finished his reading early that day and took out another assignment. But his English teacher reprimanded Trayson for working on the wrong assignment, ripped up the paper and marched him to Holian’s office.

There the headmaster told the sixth grader to get on his knees and apologize to the teacher, explaining that the punishment was an “African way.”

Paul said she called the school on March 1st and asked Holian if forcing students to kneel was standard disciplinary practice. Holian said it was not but added that he’d learned the approach from a Nigerian father who said it was an “African way” of apologizing, Paul said.

“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,” Paul, who is Haitian American, told Newsday. “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.”

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

Paul said her normally outgoing son has been reserved since the incident. “My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad and confused,” she was quoted as saying. “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.”