FBI Investigating Louisiana School That Helped Minority College Admissions
|thenorthstar||Jun 5, 2019|
A well-known private school in Louisiana, which earned a reputation for sending underprivileged and minority students to elite colleges, is being investigated by the FBI for its college admissions practices.
TM Landry College Preparatory School was the subject of a New York Times investigation, which revealed that founders Michael and Tracey Landry doctored applications and ran the school through violence and intimidation. Former students revealed that their transcripts were falsified and their accomplishments fabricated in a bid to get them accepted into Ivy League schools. The couple was also accused of embellishing students’ college application recommendation letters with false stories of hardship.
Following The New York Times’ report on transcript fraud and abuse at the school, the FBI reportedly opened an inquiry into the institution. The FBI told The North Star that, per policy, it does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. In December, the Louisiana State Police opened an investigation into the allegations of physical abuse at TM Landry. State Police spokesman Trooper Thomas Gossen told The Times that the agency was alerted to the allegations by the Breaux Bridge Police Department. The local police department also reopened a criminal investigation into whether Michael Landry battered a student named Nyjal Mitchell. Louisiana State Police did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.
The school launched its own internal investigation following the report by The Times. New Orleans law firm Couhig Partners worked with former state superintendent of schools Paul Pastorek to conduct an internal inquiry. The investigation’s findings were released on April 10. In a 23-page report, the law firm acknowledged that it was limited in its investigation. The firm was unable to interview former students who spoke to The Times after an attorney representing them declined to make them available for interviews. Couhig was also unable to get information from law enforcement agencies regarding abuse allegations at the school.
The law firm interviewed two alumni, five current students, six staffers, and the Landrys. It found that the school was a nurturing place for students, but confirmed information revealed by The Times in the fall of 2018. Couhig’s report said that while it “did not uncover evidence of systemic fraud, some errors and inaccuracies were apparent in records, as were apparent efforts to show the students in the best light possible.” The firm found issues with students’ transcripts, noted made up class rankings, and college recommendation letters that contained “large or small portions of identical representations.”
When asked by Couhig about the discrepancies, the Landrys “sometimes provided explanations that were contradictory,” investigators wrote in their report. However, the report concluded that the disparities appeared to be insignificant, potentially unimportant, and could be attributed to “mere sloppiness.” The Landrys did not respond to The North Star’s request for comment.
The report found that TM Landry “may well be a genuine incubator for success, but it appears that it may have also been a poor fit for some students, particularly some with special needs.” In his summary, Pastorek added, “No school can be everything to every student, TM Landry included.” The TM Landry case is not the only college admissions scandal grabbing headlines. In early 2019, nearly 50 people were charged in a college admissions scheme that involved cheating or falsifying the ACT and SAT exams, or lying about prospective students’ involvement in athletics.
According to WBUR, 20 people have pleaded guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing, while 29 others are fighting the federal charges. Actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among the parents charged. College consultant, William “Rick” Singer, pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with prosecutors.
Singer acknowledged that he arranged for a Harvard alumnus to proctor exams for his clients’ children, during which the proctor would coach the students or correct their exams. He also allegedly paid college coaches to create fake athletic profiles for his clients’ children. Singer’s wealthy clients would pay his not-for-profit organization, the Key Worldwide Foundation, anywhere between $15,000 and $500,000 for his services.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.