The White headmaster of a Catholic school on Long Island has been placed on leave following reports that he had a Black student kneel in apology last month, calling it "the African way" to apologize.
The headmaster was temporarily removed from his job at St. Martin de Porres School in Hempstead, New York, after parent Trisha Paul went to the local press regarding her 11-year-old son's treatment at the school.
The incident was first reported by the New York Daily News.
"St. Martin's neither condones nor accepts the actions of our headmaster," Brother James Conway, the school's acting headmaster, said in a statement. "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," Conway continued. "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."
n an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Paul said she noticed her son seemed sad after school one day late last month. When she asked him what happened, he told her he'd been sent to the headmaster's office for working on an assignment in his Literature class during designated reading time.
Paul said her son's teacher took the assignment, tore it up, and brought her son to the headmaster's office. Once there, Paul said, the headmaster told her son to kneel before the teacher in apology.
"I was filled with all different types of emotion," Paul said. When the headmaster called a few days later to discuss dates for her son's first communion, Paul said she brought it up.
"I asked him what happened," she said. "He began to tell me a story about an African family that attended the school many years ago."
The headmaster, according to Paul, told her about a former student whose father had once told him to bow when apologizing, calling it "the Nigerian way."
"I was just at a loss for words," Paul, who along with her son is Black and of Haitian descent, told CNN. "I didn't understand the relevance."
"I was really sad and disappointed," she said, adding that she went to the school to speak with the headmaster a few days later. "I was hoping to get through to him," she said.
In his office, the headmaster told the story again, Paul said. "This time, it was 'the African way.'" She said she tried to convey to the headmaster that he'd "humiliated and degraded my son," but said she didn't feel heard.
Paul said she decided to remove her son from in-person classes, and he currently attends remotely.
"He has become extremely quiet," she said Tuesday. "His interactions with everyone -- family, friends -- has changed. He's sad. He has questions. He's just trying to cope with this."
"We are not all the same," she said. "We are not all Africans. We are not all Nigerians."
Paul said she was never notified of the disciplinary incident by the school.
"I do believe that had my son not told me about this incident, it would have been brushed under the rug," she said. "I'm hoping there's some kind of resolution where he does step down," she said of the headmaster. "I want there to be change. I want my child to be that person who makes a difference."
The headmaster, who is not being named by CNN, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither Conway nor St. Martin de Porres commented on the matter beyond the acting headmaster's public statement.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is now facing 16 lawsuits alleging sexual assault.
Two new lawsuits were filed against Watson in Harris County, Texas, on Tuesday, alleging he assaulted women while receiving a massage in May and October 2020 respectively.
A lawsuit filed earlier this week called Watson a "serial predator" and as with almost all of the lawsuits, it said, "Watson's behavior is part of a disturbing pattern," but was the first to include, "Plaintiff believes Watson to be a serial predator."
In addition to the two lawsuits Tuesday, seven lawsuits were filed in Harris County on Monday by attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the women. Buzbee also filed seven lawsuits against Watson last week.
After the first suit was filed, Watson denied those allegations in a statement posted to Twitter.
"As a result of a social media post by a publicity-seeking plaintiff's lawyer, I recently became aware of a lawsuit that has apparently been filed against me. I have not yet seen the complaint, but I know this: I have never treated any woman with anything other than the utmost respect. The plaintiff's lawyer claims that this isn't about money, but before filing suit he made a baseless six-figure settlement demand, which I quickly rejected. Unlike him, this isn't about money for me — it's about clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that," the post said.
Watson's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said Tuesday he and Watson recognize that sexual assault and harassment are unlawful and morally wrong, but he believes the allegations are false.
"Opposing counsel has orchestrated a circus-like atmosphere by using social media to publicize 14 'Jane Doe' lawsuits during the past seven days in a manner calculated to inflame the public and malign Deshaun's otherwise sterling reputation," Hardin had said in a statement Monday. "In addition, the tactic of refusing our requests to confidentially provide the names of the plaintiffs so we can fully investigate their claims makes uncovering the truth extremely difficult. Anonymity is often necessary as a shield for victims but opposing counsel has used it as a sword to publicly humiliate Deshaun before the truth‑seeking process can even begin."
"I believe that any allegation that Deshaun forced a woman to commit a sexual act is completely false," Hardin said.
Hardin also said that he has spoken with "many" massage therapists who have worked with Watson and "describe him as a gentleman and a model client who never engaged in inappropriate conduct."
The seven lawsuits filed Monday describe incidents that allegedly took place from April 2020 to March 2021 in Houston, Atlanta and Beverly Hills.
Five of the lawsuits were filed by massage therapists or people allegedly hired to give a massage. One of the lawsuits was filed by an esthetician and another by a woman who "offers various wellness therapy services."
The lawsuits filed Monday all allege Watson "assaulted and harassed" the women by "exposing himself" or "touching (them) with his penis."
One of them additionally alleges Watson tried to make the accuser perform oral sex on him.
All seven lawsuits allege the women were contacted by Watson via Instagram.
Houston police posted a statement on Twitter on Friday that said no incident reports have been filed in its jurisdiction and the department "is unaware of any contact between HPD and Houston attorney Tony Buzbee regarding the allegations contained in his recently filed lawsuits."
On Saturday, Buzbee posted on Instagram, "Our team will be submitting affidavits and evidence from several women, who had experiences with Deshaun Watson, to the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the Houston District Attorney, on Monday morning. We will request that a grand jury be empaneled to consider the evidence we provide."
Houston Police spokesperson Jodi Silva told CNN on Monday she couldn't say whether anything had been turned over to HPD, and she wasn't aware of anyone from HPD speaking with Buzbee or Watson.
The Houston DA's office did not respond to CNN's request for comment.
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