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When black excellence comes to mind, we think about hashtags such as #blackgirlmagic or #blackboyjoy to attribute the success that black men and women gain through the current political climate. We’ve seen doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, valedictorians and models use these hashtags to prove that not only can white America succeed, but 12.1% of the population can as well despite the hardships that have occurred since 1619. Unfortunately, with praise comes defeat and corruption.  Only 47 minutes away from Baton Rouge, TM Landry, a K-12 college preparatory school founded by Mike and Tracy Landry, has been known for its ability to bring students to prestigious, well-known schools such as Harvard, Yale and New York University. Regardless of the high proclamations, an article by the New York Times exposed the school for its wrongdoings including falsifying transcripts and mistreating students.

One student who attended T.M. Landry, who asked to remain anonymous for this article, witnessed the struggle of abuse themselves:

“The most physical abuse during my time included the kneeling as mentioned in The New York Times in addition to instances of running laps and wall sits. There was one instance where a five-year-old kid, that was autistic, was making noises several times during the morning meeting. At one point, the child starts yelling and he was near Mike (the co-founder of T.M. Landry). Mike picked him up and started twirling him around and showed no concern for the boy despite the screaming and crying he was displaying.“

The physical abuse was not the only factor that haunted those who attended the private institution, but a mixture of emotional abuse and toxic dominance were exposed as well:

“One instance of emotional abuse that I saw was when he went to punish two boys by having them wall sit but also reach into each other’s back pocket and squeeze each other's asses if they started to fall. Mike threatened to expel them and call their parents if they refused the punishment.”

The anonymous student, unfortunately, wasn’t spared. They received threats of expulsion many times and went through numerous forms of berating:

“Before I came here, I was dealing with problems of anxiety and depression. The time I spent at TM Landry made them skyrocket. One day after a harsh form of abuse, I tried to hang myself when I went home that night. I thank God for every day I am away from the place and that I graduated. I am forever beyond the clutches of these two criminals.”

When top-notch visitors such as Raphael W. Bostic or Bill Cassidy came, the students had to be perfect in every little thing they did. They even went through a vetting process for questions: “It felt so damn robotic instead of being a naturally flowing Q&A session. It became so ingrained in us to appease notable people that we didn't think to question individuals with serious power.”

When I asked the anonymous figure about how they thought the general public would see the incident, they had a more positive answer than I expected:

“I think America has a good reaction to the situation, but as a consequence people become more outraged by the transcript and credentials side of the story. The United States has a system of education where the public side is underfunded and private education shines. In both spheres, students of color are highly undervalued. So, when we all saw an opportunity through T.M. Landry to shine in black excellence and escape the system, we took it. Our individual accomplishments were achieved by our hard work, that’s why I’m less bothered by the transcript side of the scandal.”

When asking for final thoughts from our anonymous figure, they made sure to emphasize what can happen to prevent another incidence like this from happening again:

“The only way to prevent another T.M. Landry from happening is for government resources to once again be used to elevate public schools and to re-revolutionize the curriculum of America’s education system to compete with other countries. We also need to allow students of color to feel pride in who they are and of their heritage. Our country is on a good track with people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who actually represents her constituents and does not rely on corporate money, but there are still rich, white people who continuously invest only in the advancement of their own progeny. Betsy DeVos is an example of that.”

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Trading long winters for long summers, Deborah has been living in the Sunshine state to complete her education. Deborah currently attends the University of Central Florida where she double majors in political science and psychology with a minor in journalism studies. Her hobbies consist of singing, gardening, writing, reading, and playing on the ukulele. If you want to find her outside of studying, you’ll see her at the local coffee shop reading a DC comics book.
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