For several years a private school in Louisiana intent on sending black kids to Ivy League universities actually falsified the transcripts of its students, pushed them to lie about their lives to appease white colleges, and outright physically abused students.
The New York Times has the wild investigation into T.M. Landry, a prep school that had its first graduating class in 2013. The school is run by couple Tracey and Michael Landry, who started the school as an alternative particularly for black parents whose children were struggling or being ignored by other private or public schools.
But reading about how the school is run, it’s clear that the institution is a total scam. Students cleaned the school and classes were not mandatory. Sometimes older students taught younger ones, who reportedly learned most lessons from Youtube videos or computer programs, and hired teachers were parents of students or Landry’s own family members. Because of this, parents interviewed by the Times found that their children weren’t learning basic skills for their grade level and students were sometimes years behind:
Dodie Thomas, a T.M. Landry grandmother, said she discovered that her 6-year-old granddaughter had never learned phonics and that she could not read. She played with Legos most of the day.
“I feel like I’ve paid for a high-priced babysitter,” Ms. Thomas said.
And then there was the outright abuse. Landry, who was sentenced to probation and attended an anger management program after pleading guilty to battery in 2013, would yell at students, choke them, make them kneel on the floor for hours, and students say they witnessed him put an autistic child in a closet. There was also emotional and psychological abuse, such as Landry telling students that college officers were watching students through the school’s security cameras, and getting into prestigious colleges was the goal all the kids were demanded to work towards. The creepiest thing is that students were instructed to call and respond to one another and Landry with “I love you” in multiple languages.
But while students were failing to get even the most basic education and were being subjected to physical abuse inside the school, from the outside T.M. Landry presented itself as a picture-perfect prep school with a famous track record of sending its students to Ivy League universities. Videos of high school students being accepted to places like Harvard, N.Y.U., Princeton, and more, surrounded by their screaming peers and family, ultimately went viral.
But in order to get students to those places Landry pushed them to lie about their backgrounds, which would turn students into stereotypes. One student had to write that his alcoholic father beat him and another had to exaggerate his father’s absence from his home. And because T.M. Landry wasn’t giving students the education they or their parents thought they were getting, the success students had at the school left many of them unprepared for the colleges they went to.
Asja Jackson, whose Wesleyan University acceptance video also went viral, decided to leave this month after she said she fell into a depression over her first-semester struggles. She said she “froze and failed” her first chemistry tests and walked out of a biology exam. Her papers, she said, were “childish,” and she was too embarrassed to attend a writing workshop...
“I didn’t understand why people around me were doing well, and I wasn’t,” said Ms. Jackson, who took the advice of her dean and started medical leave. “I couldn’t tell my friends because they would say, ‘How did you get into the school then?’ There were too many questions that I couldn’t answer.”
And if all this wasn’t enough to make you think the people who run this school are crazy, the Times article ends with an unhinged monologue from Landry:
“We need the haters,” he said. “I welcome the haters.”
He raised his arms on either side of him, forming a cross.
“My name is Michael Landry. I am the reformer,” he said. “They killed Jesus Christ because he could save the world. I say to myself, who are you compared to Jesus? Nothing! So I stick my arms out and say nail me to the cross if that’s what you want.”
T.M. Landry abused students and lied to them about their academic success, but the fact that primarily white institutions like Harvard or Princeton lapped up the applications of its students, and that the media who covered those viral videos didn’t look deeper into the school, is troubling. Landry clearly saw how easily he could manipulate these colleges who know they need to diversify their incoming freshman classes. And so he delivered them what sounds like neatly packaged black poverty porn with larger than life, rags-to-riches backstories. It’s disturbing what happened at T.M. Landry, but it’s also disturbing to see that this is what white colleges want from black applicants.
You can read the full investigation here.