La. Center for the Blind gets more publicity over alleged sexual assaults

By T. Scott Boatright

Not for the first time this year, the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) finds itself near the top of news headlines.

New Orleans’ Gambit weekly newspaper reported last week that the Ruston Police Department has launched an investigation into an alleged incident of sexual abuse that occurred by a “worker or former worker” at the Center for the Blind, although that story also said the RPD is not currently investigating the LCB, which has had multiple former students allege sexual assaults and abuse against employees and students, as a whole.

Earlier this month Gambit published a story of an interview with a woman who said she was 19 and a junior in high school in 2017 who attended a summer program for high school students and says she was sexually assaulted by a blind instructor at the LCB. Gambit reportedly talked with eight people who said they experienced or witnessed abuse at the LCB, saying that most spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The issue heated up in December of last year when more than 500 people signed an open letter discussing sexual misconduct and abuse addressed to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, which is also based in Ruston. Thirty-nine people originally signed that open later and about 490 others, including survivors, friends, family, organizations and allies, later signed to add their support.

In January, the same Gambit writer published a story saying he National Federation of the Blind is launching a major restructuring of its internal policies and programming for blind children and adults in response to allegations of sexual assault against multiple male employees at the LCB.

That January story also mentioned accusations of incidents happening at the Colorado Center for the Blind.

Soon after the LCB told local media outlets that it had formatted plans to address previous allegations of physical, mental and sexual abuse carried out by staff against students. That action plan presented by the LCB says that all allegations will be thoroughly investigated, and that it is working to provide revised policies, better training and structural changes to prevent such negligent behavior in the future.

While the RPD told Gambit it is not investigating the LCB as a whole, Gambit in its most recent story on the matter called for LCB Director Pam Allen to step down from that position as well as her role as vice president for the NFB. That story also asked for state lawmakers and Louisiana’s congressional delegation to open investigations into the LCB and the NFB.

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