How Viral Videos Masked a Louisiana Prep School’s Problems | NYT News
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How Viral Videos Masked a Louisiana Prep School’s Problems | NYT News

A high school student in
front of a laptop, surrounded by classmates, dressed in college gear. A moment of
suspense, and then … [Cheers] It was a scene repeated
over and over again. Students from one
Louisiana private school opening acceptance letters
from their dream colleges. The videos often went viral. This one, of a
16-year-old student getting accepted
to Harvard, racked up over
8 million views. [Cheers] But there was more
to the story. Students told us many of
their college applications included false information
provided by their school’s administrators. And the cheers in
these videos covered up an ugly reality of abuse
and intimidation at T.M. Landry College Prep. “Abusing emotionally, physically. We realized, O.K.
something’s not right. Everything is wrong
with T.M. Landry.” Sixteen-year-old Megan Malveaux
is a former student. “There was this little kid, he was probably
about 7 or 8, and he was acting up in class. Mr. Mike, he had
took the kid by the neck and
picked him up and body slammed
him on the table.” Mr. Mike is Michael Landry. He and his wife, Tracey,
founded the school. It costs up to
$725 a month to attend, and received
national attention for its 100 percent
college acceptance rate. In various TV interviews, they pitched a message
of hope and hard work. “We’re changing society. We’re giving hope.” “Go big or go home.” The Landrys denied
falsifying transcripts and college applications, and any allegations of abuse. But they do maintain that
physical punishments are doled out because they love their students
and treat them like family. The Landrys told the
story of young black kids from a
working-class community, who overcame systemic barriers
to achieve success. “Doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter where
you’ve been in life, you can do it.” And the videos were crucial
in promoting that message. Parents say they had no idea
what was going on. “All the videos, I was excited for
all the kids, because they’re kids. Little black kids like us can go to Harvard, Yale.” “I mean, the good
talking he did made you realize, well, you’re
kid needs to go to that school. If you want the best
for your kid, you need to send them
to T.M. Landry. You know, you speak
to anybody in Louisiana, they’re telling you.” When the cameras were off, students say they were
pitted against each other, interrogated and humiliated. Students say they were also
physically punished. Sometimes they would
be forced to kneel on rocks, rice or
hot concrete, for hours. “I remember the first time
I was put on my knees was because he gave me
a test and I failed it.” A New York Times investigation
found that behind the scenes, the Landrys filled out
transcripts incorrectly to reflect classes the kids
say they never took and grades they never earned. “My transcript was
messed up because he messed up my birthday
because apparently I was born the year
my mom was. He put classes that I never
even took, like chemistry.” Students told The Times
that the Landrys told them to lie on their
college applications about growing up in
households marked by poverty, crime
and drug addiction. If they refused,
they say the Landrys threatened to
do it for them. A look back
reveals clues about Michael Landry’s
temperament, like in this recent pitch that became a
passionate outburst. [Bangs fist] “Excuse me, ma’am.” But this was a rare glimpse
at his frightening tone. The Landrys produced
a steady stream of promotional material, painting a positive picture
of an unconventional school. “T.M. Landry is
a no-frills school.” “No classrooms,
no walls, no books.” “Teachers without
certifications. Classes with no
teachers at all.” After the acceptance
videos started gaining traction in 2016, press from
around the country started showing up at
their door. “Walking around campus, we saw that weird
Landry style.” Outsiders marveled
at how the Landrys could make the
impossible happen. “So, O.K. this is incredible.” “The results speak
for themselves.” “Go Landrys —” “They have figured out
the secret sauce —” “They really have.” In media interviews, they
called themselves a family — “Family first —” that pushed kids to their academic limits. “They will make it.
No is not an option. Failure is not an option.” Former students
and parents told us that for visits
like these, students would be forced to
spend days rehearsing what to say to reporters. “I plan to attend
Harvard University.” “Harvard University.” “Stanford University.” “Cornell.” “Brown.” “We have this trig book,
which is like from M.I.T., so we just basically
teach each other.” For the high school students, there was a
singular focus: practicing for the ACT. For younger kids: a loose and
insufficient curriculum that has left many
grade levels behind. When their methods
were questioned, the Landrys were quick
to dismiss any suspicions. “Some of them sound
a little brainwashed.” “When it’s a black kid and it’s strictly education, something’s wrong
with that kid.” “The reason why
I never said nothing was because I
was scared. Because they were getting
all of this attentions from news channels. They were in articles. I was so brainwashed and I was thinking,
he can’t do no wrong. But as you can see
since I’m sitting here, I was all wrong.” Now, many in the
T.M. Landry community say they feel swindled out of
time, money, and ironically, an education.

About James Carlton

Read All Posts By James Carlton

100 thoughts on “How Viral Videos Masked a Louisiana Prep School’s Problems | NYT News

  1. welp. I moved to this neighborhood last year. always wondered what the empty warehouse building was. so sad this community got jipped out of a valuable education cause it is so obviously needed.

  2. In this vid you say "working class" families. In the link provided, they are called "underprivileged". Which is it?

  3. 800$ a month for a private school sounds very very cheap compared to other private schools.

  4. As of April 2019, the FBI completed an investigation and found no evidence to support any of the claims made against the school

  5. this became the first tv episode… and they only talked about the black kids that went there ( there where white kids ) and how this whole thing is gonna affect the black community…

  6. This is one of those instances where people sense something is a little off,
    but don't want to acknowledge it.

    So they simply turn a blind-eye.

    Thank you NY Times for this excellent piece of journalism.

  7. Yeah, this messes up so many lives. The students are going to take someone else's spot while suffering and then fail.

  8. Lock the Landrys up
    It’s a shame… another example of black people being crooked and hurting their own, but, still… close it down and go straight to jail

  9. African American kids get their first taste of the problems white people have. America is finally equal. Aunt Becky much?

  10. This is totally unfair to many students around the nation, these kids shouldn't be getting these scholarships.

  11. Why did the kids in the back cheer? I know the cheers are real but how did they know they can’t see the screen

  12. There were so many dead giveaways that this is a scam.
    1. No teachers.
    2. No classrooms (except a big garage if you can even consider that a classroom)
    3. 100% of the kids getting accepted in Ivy-League schools?
    Not only does this look like an obvious scam, having it all in a large garage makes it look like some sort of a cult.
    Disgusting what this couple did in scamming these people out of a lot of money; money which they could have used towards sending their kids to actual colleges.
    Shame on what this couple did in targeting African Americans.

  13. Universities need to implement admission tests that reflect proficiency in the prerequisites required for the subject pursued, plain and simple. You pass the test with flying colors, you earned your place. Many affirmative action students simply don't have the academic/intellectual fortitude to finish, ending up wasting a valuable spot. This way, we also solve the issue of academic disparity among the students that might have the same GPA but in reality, are on totally different levels.

  14. Falsified applications are doing these people no service. What’s going to happen when they get to the Harvards and Stanfords and have to honestly perform and compete with people who got there honestly?

  15. Disgusting! They just Perpetuated a horrible stereotype, and instead of inspiring children in the black community, they have done the complete opposite, by using physical violence, mental torture, and lies, to pretend to be something they’re not, all the while bilking hundreds, if not thousands, of families, out of a small fortune. I pray to God that these two people are put out of business immediately, the families reimbursed for the thousands of dollars they wasted, and that they face criminal proceedings and then hopefully, a very long time in jail where they belong.😡😡😡😡

  16. not surprised it’s a warehouse, i went to a private college prep school in an old church, and the principal was just as crazy as theirs

  17. Black schools all cheat to make their students look like they are college materiel when they are mostly a buncha dumbfucks.

  18. How did the students who were accepted to top universities do once they were accepted? Were they successful at universities or unprepared?

  19. The Hardest part of the Ivy Schools?? Getting in!! After that it's a cake walk!! Gender Studies, Grievance studies and on…all the BS Fake majors!! Grade inflation…coddling of students (See Yale and the Halloween Costume SJW hurtin') Rigged admissions …if your Parent is a Politician and you are a dope…Accepted!! Screwing qualified Asians…

  20. You know it’s fake when you see kids with a gpa of above 3.6 (in this prep college) doing below 3.0 in their desire colleges…

  21. Just one interview with these slow kids would show the colleges the truth 😂 I lost brain cells listening to that fat girl being interviewed

  22. These are false report. The New York Times is just hating on black college Prep school. False information. The New York Times should have done a thorough investigation before making these claim. Poor journalist that was done by The New Times

  23. Hey they scary and intimidate me as long as I get into Ivy League school. The reason why she ratting is because she didn’t get in

  24. It's lucky that they don't have durian in that school. My teacher always force bad students to kneel on durian thone

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