LCB investigation should not be rushed

For well more than 35 years I’ve been able to see the good the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) has done for people in need.

And it’s for that reason I’m pained by the ongoing stories continuing to be being published by Gambit, a weekly newspaper and online publication in New Orleans.

Another one came out this week as Gambit reported that Louisiana Tech University is reviewing its ties with the LCB following multiple allegations of sexual abuse, racism and other misconduct at the center.

“We are currently reviewing the terms of our relationship with the Louisiana Center for the Blind,” Gambit reported Louisiana Tech spokesperson Tonya Oaks Smith saying in a statement.

Tech and LCB have had a long relationship.

LCB founder Joanne Wilson also founded the Louisiana Tech’s Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, where students learn how to teach blindness skills.

Between 2014-2019, Louisiana Tech paid more than $230,000 to LCB as part of the university’s immersion program, during which Tech students sit in on LCB training programs.

Edward Bell, who heads the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Tech, previously worked as an instructor at LCB. He is the treasurer and secretary of the Ruston-based National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Wilson also sits on the NBPCB board.

Gambit’s April 4 cover story interviewed former LCB students at the center describing a “toxic culture” of sexual misconduct, abuse and assault by both instructors and students at the center, with some of those former students saying little or nothing was done to handle the situation or prevent such from happening again.

Last week Gambit reported that the Ruston Police Department launched an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse against a former instructor at LCB.

LCB director Pam Allen had previously said LCB and NFB, for which she serves as a vice president, are conducting an investigation into allegations involving the Ruston center, as well as similar complaints at facilities in other parts of the country.

The situation is being investigated as weekly stories continue. The story published last week also called for Allen to step down from her positions. The Gambit stories are solid journalism. But could the pace they’re coming at create a sense of urgency that could push the case in one direction or another as opposed to finding true balance on the scales of justice?

I’d rather see the investigation be allowed to run its course and not be rushed. Time to do a thorough investigation should tell how the situation should be handled for both past wrongs and to create a better and brighter future for the LCB and the people it serves.

Let’s not forget that the LCB has long been a bright beacon shining for those whose sight has been dimmed, and I don’t think that should be forgotten. If what is allegedly happened is true, it’s wrong and must be addressed. But stoking the fires for quick action could result in mistakes being made and innocent current and future students at LCB being burned in the process.

Give justice time to be properly decided and served.

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