Louisiana School Co-founder Accused of Making Student Eat Rat Feces, Stepping on Another Student’s Face

Tracey and Michael Landry
Screenshot: The New York Times

The horrifying story of T.M. Landry College Preparatory School is getting clearer and bleaker as more details of abuse come to light during a state police investigation.

According to the New York Times, which broke the original story, Louisiana State Police have been looking more closely at abusive behavior that seemingly ran rampant at the school. In addition to lying on students’ college applications, owner Michael Landry and other “educators” at the school have been accused of physical and emotional abuse against students, including acts such as making students kneel to learn “humility,” choking students, and slamming them.

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Because the school moved multiple times, the allegations of abuse fell within multiple jurisdictions, including Breaux Bridge County, which had previously closed a case about Michael Landry hitting children because it “was outside of its jurisdiction.” As such, state police have stepped in, though families have expressed skepticism after what they feel was a fumble by local law enforcement in handling these cases.

From the New York Times:

Since The Times published its article, more than a dozen people have reported additional incidents of what they called abuse to authorities, according to a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the cases. Those statements include allegations that Mr. Landry placed a developmentally disabled boy in a closet, lifted another student by his collar and shoved him to the ground on his knees, and hit elementary school students with a belt.

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It should be moot at this point, but unfortunately it’s not: Any form of corporal punishment is unsuitable for children and can drive the exact sort of criminal or otherwise aberrant behavior that Michael and Tracey Landry purportedly wanted to keep students away from when they claimed to parents they wanted to get students out of unfavorable socioeconomic situations.

Even to the staunchest (and wrongest) supporters of corporal punishment, it should be clear that what happened at T.M. Landry went far above and beyond what’s appropriate for handling minors. In addition to the above, a report recently released by a local sheriff’s office “detailed additional allegations of choking, slapping and forcing a child to eat rat feces,” writes the Times, and the report includes a witness statement in which a 13-year-old “student accused Mr. Landry of stepping on his face and kicking him in the stomach.”

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The school fostered an environment of straight-up terror and humiliation for students, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that experiencing or being in proximity to this environment was traumatic—not to say anything of the education they missed out on and the years some of them lost, with many tested students being below grade level and some struggling at college recently.

Hopefully, this investigation, now that it finally seems to be happening on a proper scale, will get Landry far, far away from any school and any children for the foreseeable future.

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About the author

Natalie Degraffinried

Natalie Degraffinried is a staff editor for Kotaku.