CONCOURSE — The mother of a Cardinal Hayes High School senior banned from his upcoming graduation for saying "F--k Jesus" during a Mass is asking the school to turn the other cheek and allow her son to take part in the ceremony.
Ebony Martin said her son Latrell Davis, 17, was standing outside of the school's auditorium on May 12 while Mass was being celebrated when he heard another student utter the phrase and repeated it.
Initially, Latrell's punishment consisted only of being suspended from school and barred from all senior activities, including prom, the senior brunch and the senior Mass.
"He told me what happened," Martin said. "I’m like, well, that was dumb on your end, so this is the punishment that you get."
However, a week later, she said she got another phone call from the school informing her that her son would also not be allowed to take part in the June 6 graduation ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral, a move she viewed as excessive and unnecessary given the penalties that the school had already doled out.
She said banning him from graduation was just as big a punishment for her as it was for him.
"I was a teen mom. I didn’t go to my own graduation, so I want to be proud to see my son graduate because he’s labeled as a statistic," she said. "Coming from an African-American teen mother, the odds were really against him."
The teen, who will play football at Utica College as a wide receiver when he starts as a freshman next fall on a $17,000 a year merit scholarship, admitted he repeated the phrase because he was shocked but acknowledged that he also thought it might get a laugh.
"When I passed the auditorium door, I heard someone say, 'F Jesus,'" Latrell said, "and then I turned around, and the door was still open, and I repeated it, like questioning it. So I was like, 'F Jesus?'"
Latrell said he went to class as usual after the incident but later in the day was called to speak with Dean of Discipline Rudy Turnbull, who told him that students had said he opened the door, went inside the auditorium and yelled the sacrilegious phrase, which the high-schooler disputes.
“I never denied that I said it,” Latrell said, “but I didn’t say it directly into the auditorium.”
Martin asked the school to send her all of the evidence it had proving Davis was the sole person responsible for the obscene comment, but they declined, maintaining that his confession was enough.
Cardinal Hayes' president, the Rev. Joseph Tierney, would not comment further on the student's punishment.
But in an email sent to Martin and shared with DNAinfo New York, Turnbull wrote, "Latrell, due to his actions, is not welcomed at the Cathedral for the Cardinal Hayes Graduation. I think it is in everyone's best interest that this request be adhered to. The decision to not have Latrell attend the Cardinal Hayes Graduation is final."
Latrell said he knows the first thing he would say if he got a chance to convince the school to let him take part in the graduation ceremony.
"I would apologize," he said, "for doing something so stupid."