White headmaster who made Black student kneel resigns from Long Island school

Long Island

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The white headmaster of a New York Catholic school who made a Black student kneel as part of an apology to a teacher has resigned.

The St. Martin de Porres Marianist school on Long Island posted a statement on its website Wednesday. John Holian had been on leave in the wake of the controversy that had arisen over his handling of the punishment, which took place on Feb. 25.

The student involved, an 11-year-old boy, told his mother that he was reprimanded by a teacher, and that the teacher took him to Holian’s office where he was told to get on his knees and apologize.

“To kneel down and apologize the African way,” said Trisha Paul, the child’s mother.

Later Wednesday, a rally of solidarity was held in front of the school in Uniondale in support of the student and his family.

The headmaster explained that the family of a former student who was Nigerian had instructed their child to apologize that way, Paul said.

“I assume because my child was Black, he believed we shared the same cultural beliefs,” she said.

Paul pulled her child from in-person learning over the incident and now says more needs to be done.

“I’m ecstatic that that the headmaster has resigned. However, I feel it’s not enough. The teacher that was involved needs to be held accountable as well,” she said.

About two dozen protesters rallied with the mother on Wednesday outside of the school, as some came to the headmaster’s defense.

“I’m not gonna jump in the bandwagon because I personally have a son in this school and [the headmaster is] not a racist. To me he’s been a father figure to my son,” said Eleanor McCay.

In a statement to parents the school wrote in part that it “continues to review the incident in question to ensure that it is never repeated again in any form…This incident does not reflect our long, established value of respect for the individual or the established protocols regarding student-related issues…”

Protesters called for more diversity among the school’s educators and for school staff to get proper cultural sensitivity training.

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