The last thing a mother expects when learning that her child was disciplined at school is to hear that they were degraded and humiliated by the administration. But that is exactly what happened according to Trisha Paul and her 11-year-old son Trayson at his Catholic school last month on Long Island.
“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,” said Paul.
On February 25th, when he was picked up from St. Martin de Porres School in Uniondale by his mother, Trayson told her that he was working on an assignment ahead of time while the rest of the class was still reading a text. Once the teacher realized, Trayson said she ripped his worksheet in front of the class and told him he had failed to follow instructions. The teacher then took him to the headmaster’s office where he was ordered to apologize and kneel.
Headmaster referred to punishment as the “African and Nigerian way.”
A few days after the confrontation Trisha contacted the school’s headmaster, John Holian, to discuss what happened. “He admitted that he asked him to kneel down,” Paul said. “He didn’t acknowledge what happened was wrong or how I felt and wasn’t remorseful or apologetic at all.”
Holian said that he was inspired to make Trayson kneel by a Nigerian father. Apparently that father had done the same to his son in an earlier and unrelated event. Holian referred to the punishment as the “African and Nigerian way.”
“My child is not Nigerian,” said Paul. “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.”
Headmaster placed on leave
Holian has been placed on a leave of absence as the school continues to investigate the incident according to the acting headmaster James Conway.
“I want to assure you that St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster,” Conway told parents in an email. “The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student related issues. The manner in which he disciplined a St. Martin’s student was not consistent with the policies and philosophy of St. Martin’s.”
Since the incident, Trayson has not returned to the school and Trisha has hired an attorney. She demands the headmaster step down and the school implement racial sensitivity courses for it’s staff.