A Look Into the T.M. Landry Scandal


Meredith Bushman, Arts and Entertainment Editor

T.M. Landry has become famous for their ability to take students from less than ideal home situations and bring them towards their incredible college acceptances, including some of the country’s top universities–from Harvard to Stanford to Brown. However, it turns out that none of the acceptances are real.

A New York Times investigation revealed that the unaccredited prep school has been fabricating their students’ transcripts and over exaggerating their back stories to gain sympathy from college admission counselors. After interviewing forty six people-from current and past students, teachers, parents, and law enforcement officials, the Times was able to discover the extent to which T.M. Landry falsified their student’s transcripts.

Most of the students at T.M. Landry were African American and came from working class backgrounds, and the founder of the school, Michael Landry, used that fact to his advantage. He frequently forced students to inflate their own backgrounds to play into African American stereotypes and create compassion from potential admissions officers.

Raymond Smith Jr, a student of T.M. Landry that graduated in 2017, shared with the Times that when he was applying to colleges, Mr. Landry forced him to exaggerate his father’s absence on his college application.

Smith told the Times that colleges get “these bright, high-flying, came-from-nothing-turned-into-something students” and make themselves look better.

Michael Landry has also used the fact that he and his wife are African American to his advantage to help recruit potential students. He would promote the school as a place for students of minority groups to feel unified and empowered, and promised that his school would educate them so well that they can go beyond the standards and expectations African American students face today.

T.M. Landry has also faced issues regarding the credibility of their institution. The school started in 2005 when Michael Landry and his wife, Tracey Landry, started the school for their son and five other kids. From the beginning, the school was not successful- two of the six students ended up in jail. But the Landrys continued to recruit students and keep working on building their schools.

T.M. Landry is not an accredited private school, as it receives no funding from the government, and therefore cannot be regulated or approved by any state or federal government.

Because of this, the state of  Louisiana does not recognize the diplomas awarded by T.M. Landry. Although students from the school claim that their diplomas meet state requirements, the state has no jurisdiction over the school and therefore cannot recognize the credits that T.M. Landry students are graduating with.

Michael Landry has not taken money from any scholarship or funding so he could continue to run the school under his own jurisdiction, and not have to follow any potential guidelines or abide by certain rules.

Instead, the operation of the school relies on donations from donors who watched, inspired as students from hard beginnings get accepted into top universities, all because of their humble, small high school. In the past year alone, T.M. Landry accepted over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in donations.

To ensure success, Michael Landry went as far as physically abusing his students as a way to frighten students into performing well and following instructions. Often times, students had to kneel on the floor for hours, as to show their respect and obedience to their teachers and supervisors.

In an interview with the Times, Michael Landry admitted to yelling a lot as well as pitting students of different races against each other, telling them that that is the way the real world works. Additionally, Landry has been found guilty of counts of battery and served probation after hitting a student. Landry claimed that the student’s mother had asked him to physically punish her child, but since the charges has not done it again.

Graduates from T.M. Landry have had issues since moving onto college, as they were not prepared for a real world education after being taught in a sheltered, unrealistic high school setting. For one former T.M. Landry student, Asja Jackson, who got accepted into Wesleyan University, college has been the reality check she was not ready for. She told the Times that she walked out of tests due to the difficulty levels, but couldn’t share the struggles with her fellow classmates.

“I didn’t understand why people around me were doing well and I wasn’t. I couldn’t tell my friends because they would say ‘how did you get into this school then?’ and there were too many questions I couldn’t answer,” Jackson told the Times.

For now, T.M. Landry remains open and the founders have even discussed moving the location of the school or opening a new institution if the current one gets shut down. However, the idea of any more top universities accepting students from T.M. Landry may be hard to follow.