UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island mother says her Black son was forced by his white school administrator to kneel while apologizing to a teacher — an act she calls racist.
“He’s hurt, humiliated, sad disappointed. He’s just going through a lot of the emotions now,” Trisha Paul told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon on Sunday.
READ MORE: Calls To End Anti-Asian Violence Continue As NYPD Makes Arrest In Friday Attack On 1 Train
Paul said her 11-year-old son is traumatized after an incident at his school, St. Martin de Porres Marianist, last month.
She said after her son was sent to headmaster John Holian’s office for doing the wrong assignment in class, Holian told him to get on his knees while apologizing to his white, female teacher.
“He stated that he should apologize the African or the Nigerian way, which was to kneel down,” Paul said.
Later, the boy told his mother, and, horrified, Paul asked the headmaster about the incident.
She said Holian told her he learned about the ritual from a Nigerian family whose child used to go to the school.
“There was an African father who came in and told their child to apologize the Nigerian or African way. That’s when it dawned upon me that maybe he generalized my child because he was Black,” Paul said.
The Haitian-American mom said she asked the headmaster whether the act was standard practice and was told this was the first time a student had been asked to kneel while making an apology.
READ MORE: Rallies To End Asian Hate Held In NYC; ‘We’re All Different, But That Doesn’t Mean We Should Be Treated Different’
“My son is not African. You generalize everyone because they’re Black? You just assume that my child is Nigerian? It was done simply because he was Black,” Paul said.
In a meeting with the headmaster, Paul said Holian apologized and told the family his actions were simply disciplinary in nature.
Headmaster Holian did not respond to CBS2’s requests for comment. The school forwarded to CBS2 letter it sent to parents saying it does not condone Holian’s actions, adding they are not consistent with the school’s policies.
The headmaster is now on a leave of absence while the school investigates the incident.
Paul said while a leave is a step in the right direction, she wants Holian to step down, for staff to receive racial sensitivity training and for child disciplinary measures to be laid out in the school’s code of conduct.
“We need to make sure that there isn’t anyone else being mistreated based on the color of their skin, their race,” Paul said.
Paul said her son remains confused by what happened. For now, she has pulled him out of in-person learning.
MORE NEWS: COVID In New York: Gym Owners, Fitness Class Instructors Ready For 33% Capacity Starting Monday
CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report