Parents pay around $600 a month to send their children to T.M. Landry College Preparatory. They say 100 percent of their students get into college and get an average score on the ACT of 28.
The methods used by the school to get those high achievements, however, are coming into question. In an article published by The New York Times, former students and faculty allege that the school falsified transcripts and created fake stories and backgrounds for students to make them more attractive to Ivy League schools.
“We realized something isn’t right, and everything is wrong with T.M. Landry,” said former student Megan Malveaux.
Forty-six people were interviewed for The New York Times story, including current and former students as well as their parents.
“These children have been victimized.”
Mary Mitchell’s children both went to the school. Her son was among the young teenagers who spoke up to the paper, something she says was brave and shows what was really going on.
“That Mr. Landry was seen for the monster he really is,” Mitchell says. She also says her daughter was verbally abused, her son physically abused.
“Mr. Landry assaulted my son on more than one occasion. He put his hands around my son’s throat. My son tried to remove his hands,” Mitchell alleges. “On another occasion, Mr. Landry dragged my son by the hoodie across the concrete floor and then put his foot on my son’s throat.”
Her children’s claims were echoed by others interviewed in the investigative report.
“There was this little kid who was about seven or eight who was acting up in class. Mr. Mike took the kid by the neck, picked him up and body slammed him on the table,” Malveaux told the NYT in an interview.
A video on the school’s website paints a different picture of the environment at T.M. Landry.
“The culture is one of what I would say a nurturing environment,” co-owner Tracey Landry says in that promotional video.
When asked about the allegations, Landry reportedly admitted he hit students and could be rough but said he doesn’t do physical punishments anymore. He does say he yells a lot.
On Friday, two signs were taped on the outside doors that read “no comment” but were taken down shortly after.
KATC reached out to the Landrys for comment, but we have not heard back. The Landrys’ attorney released a statement Friday evening. Read that here.
As of 6:00 p.m. Friday, the founders were meeting with teachers and parents in a private meeting.
Besides accusations of abuse, there are also fraud allegations. Some students say their transcripts show classes they never took and achievements they never earned, all in an effort to make them more appealing to Ivy League schools.
“He put classes that I never even took, like chemistry,” Malveaux told The New York Times.
One parent KATC spoke to says since she’s pulled her child out of T.M. Landry, she’s had to get him remediation courses to get him back up to grade level because the school was primarily teaching how to pass the ACT, not lessons that would help them succeed in the long run.
Mike and Tracey Landry started the school after deciding to home-school their own child. They say they take no government money, so the state does not regulate them, and they are not accredited.
Allegations against the school continue Saturday.
A former student who attended the school in 2012 says each day would start with everyone congregating in the main area of the school which was described as a small four-room building.
Regarding the morning meeting, the former student said, “They were supposed to be for inspiration and to motivate you, but it was more of badgering whoever was a ‘failure.'”
According to the student, Mike’s main goal was to get every one of his students into an acclaimed school and that they study something related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
While beginning the college application process, she says that since she didn’t “fit the typical mold he used for the majority of the students who were African American,” Mike allegedly said he was going to write her paper and portray her as a “Native American who lived on a reservation and had limited access to education.”
She said she didn’t want to be portrayed that way because that was far from the truth.
When she expressed that she wanted to go to college to become a teacher, she alleges Mike would degrade her choice during the daily meetings.
She believes that decision also affected her younger brother, who she says was made to do wall squats for around 15 minutes if he wasn’t doing his work properly.
She went on to confirm the allegations that Mike got physical with the students. She said he dragged the students or put his foot on their face/neck. “He would do this often to students who were not meeting the status quo.”
The younger students who were misbehaving were put outside even in colder temperatures, the former student alleges.
“When his actions started to be directed towards my brother because of my choices, I told my brother we were leaving, and we never went back,” she said.
Despite the allegations, not everyone is unhappy with the education their children have been receiving from the private school.
“My first reaction was this is not the school. This has not been my experience. This is very foreign from my experience,” Linier Cordell, a grandmother of T.M. Landry students says. “What I’ve seen them focus on is they have to do reading, they have to write essays on what they read, they have to have discussion and debate.”
One student who attended the school between 2005 and 2018 left the school because of financial issues but says the allegations against T.M. Landry are untrue.
The student tells KATC that the Landrys treated students like their own children, asking for suggestions to improve the school and even going as a far as providing students a safe place to stay if they were having trouble at home.
The student claims Mike Landry even offered her parents some sort of financial assistance program to help with tuition.
KATC has spoken to the parents of students who have appeared in T.M. Landry’s viral videos, and they say their children are doing well in college. One parent said their child had not attended T.M. Landry long before they graduated, but their backstory of hardship was true.
One parent, a veterinarian in the area, says his two children excel at T.M. Landry Prep. They are both in their first years. He explains that while in public schools, one of his children struggled in mathematics, but after moving to T.M. Landry, she is now understanding higher-level math, even participating in national competitions.
“The school is doing a very good job, and I am tired of seeing only the negative,” the parent told KATC over the phone. He also mentions that the NYT article misrepresented the school’s diversity, saying they are a mixed culture of students from different backgrounds.
Princeton University responded to the allegations against TM Landry by saying:
We are very troubled by the report and the allegations of fraud. First and foremost, we are concerned for the affected students and their families. We remain committed to attracting and supporting talented students, including students from groups that have been underrepresented in higher education and denied the opportunities they need to flourish. Every one of our students is a valued member of our community.
How does the college admissions process work and what does Friday’s NYT article mean for the students?
“The college process is rather complicated,” says Melinda Mangham, a college advisor.
Mangham has been a college advisor for more than 30 years. Through those years, she’s guided more than a hundred students who attended Ivy League schools.
“My job has always been finding a school that matches what that student wants and where that student will excel,” Mangham says.
Acceptance into a top university mainly comes down to your essay and recommendation letters, Mangham explained.
“There’s going to be a huge number of kids who have that 4.0 GPA, that have the 33, 34, 36 ACT score. So, what makes the difference? The story you tell.”
Upon reading The New York Times article about T.M. Landry, Mangham said it brought tears to her eyes.
“The thought that students have trusted in educators to get them down the road and that’s not what has happened,” she says.
The article quotes former students saying T.M. Landry falsified their transcripts, application essays, and financial aid forms, something Mangham says can have a serious impact on the students.
“Interestingly enough, Ivy League schools don’t give merit-based scholarships. It’s a financial packet, and you have to do it correctly.” Mangham explains. “That’s what surprised me so about some of the implications or accusations for T.M. Landry. That stuff you just don’t play with. You’ve got to play by the rules.”