Paul told the New York Daily News an English teacher initially confronted her son about working on the wrong assignment. The teacher ripped up the assignment and walked Trayson to Holian’s office, Paul said. The mother, a hospital administrator paying almost $15,000 a year to send her son to the school, told the Post that what happened next was horrifying. “This was a racist act,” she said. “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.”
Holian further explained during a March 4 meeting the New York Daily News covered what he witnessed the Nigerian father doing. “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.’ I’ve never seen that before,” Holian said. He added that he started implementing the practice after seeing it. “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 reportedly told Paul. “I was speaking to your son as I would my own son.”
“I’m sorry if you’re upset,” he added. “It wasn’t a thought-out situation.”
Holian was put on leave, according to the school’s acting headmaster James Conway. “St. Martin’s neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster, he said in a statement on the school’s website. “The incident does not reflect our long, established values or the established protocols regarding student related issues. We have launched an internal review of the incident and restated in the clearest terms what is the established and approved practice for student-faculty interaction.
“Our most important mission here at St. Martin’s is to provide our children with the spiritual and educational foundation that will allow them to lead exemplary lives. We are fully committed to providing our children with respectful care and instruction as we move forward.”
Paul, who has hired an attorney, told NBC News her son was humiliated and felt degraded. “He did cry and he was sad. He just stated that, ‘Why did it happen to me? Why was it necessary for me to kneel?'” she said. She told the news network she’ll be sending her son to therapy because he hasn’t been himself since the incident. “Most of the time, he doesn’t want to discuss it. His interactions with family members, relatives, friends, anyone around him has changed,” Paul said. She’s asking that Holian steps down and that school staff completes racial and cultural sensitivity training.
Author Corey Pegues said in a tweet he’s been protesting at the school to have Holian fired. “If you know me then you know, I walk the walk!” Pegues said. “We was up at the school today demanding the termination of the ‘Headmaster’ #johnholian at St. Martin De Porres Marinist in Uniondale, Long Island!”
Indy K-12, an Indianapolis education blog, tweeted: “Discipline at school should never result in a child needing therapy. When this becomes the case, the school leadership needs to quickly rectify its practices so no other students are emotionally harmed.”