I am the first openly gay elected official in Louisiana history and have served on the Orleans Parish School Board for four years, including one year as V-P and one year as President. I am an attorney in private practice, but was previously a constitutional litigator for the City of New Orleans. AMA

Comments: 522 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

OffensivelyTasty296 karma

I don't have any questions really, but I would like to thank you for being sensible and having what most politicians seem to be lacking: moral fiber. Cheers and good luck

TRobichaux100 karma


bwana_singsong117 karma

Presumably you will be highly targeted for removal in the next election because of these actions. What do you think your chances are? How can pro-science people meaningfully show support?

TRobichaux187 karma

Unfortunately, I have already lost my re-election. Not because of this issue, but because I have stood up against patronage and corruption to some very powerful politicians.

bwana_singsong51 karma

will the policies you cite all be overturned?

TRobichaux144 karma

It takes a 2/3 vote of the board to change or amend a policy. Since 4 of the 7 members are returning and the vote was unanimous, I don't forsee it happening. However, one of the reasons that I pushed for the policies is so that IF it were to be taught, there would HAVE to be a PUBLIC discussion on the matter at least 3 times. Hopefully that will discourage any attempts at changing them.

blueboybob80 karma

You are doing God's work. Thank you.

Seriously though, as a former resident of Louisiana who left for reasons like those you are reversing, I thank you.

TRobichaux42 karma

Thank YOU!

meshautesidees80 karma

I may get downvoted to hell for asking this, but what kind of change is necessary, at a cultural level, for African American students to succeed in the public school system? Doing well in school sadly isn't a priority for many black families. What about on an educational level (ie, changing the schools themselves)?

TRobichaux98 karma

It is a monumental issue and one of the touchiest. As soon as one says "we need to change the culture" the racism monster raises its head. I have been proposing different ideas to remedy this for several years. Most significantly, to require all students to participate in anh academic team after school (debate, quiz bowl, model UN, chess club, etc. that way they are having fun but still in an academic environment. The legislature killed my funding mechanism last year.

safety2nd55 karma

besides creationists, where do you find your biggest opposition?

TRobichaux99 karma

The Louisiana Family Forum has a choke-hold on the Lousiana Legislature. They work very hard to push fundamentalist policies and laws that benefit their future control and influence. They work closely with ALEC and also very hard against The Forum for Equality, our LGBT rights group.

NorthStarZero16 karma

How many of them (LFF) are there?

I'm very curious to what the actural manpower strength of these sorts of organizations are. My suspiscion is that it is only a couple of motivated people with a strong work ethic.

Is this the case?

TRobichaux38 karma

Yes and no. They are really entrenched and control many legislators. They also have plenty of money and a national affiliate, the Executive director of which is a former La Legislator. (Its also a known hate group, FYI.)

TRobichaux59 karma

Also, the established powers locally in the Dem party do not like new blood or new rivals. They also worked hard against my re-election.

dances_with_cougars24 karma

I hear you. The Democratic party that elected and continued to prop up the administration of Edwin Edwards is the reason I have never put a party affiliation on my voter registration since there's no way I could ever be a Republican.

TRobichaux65 karma

I would still vote for Edwards over Jindal today, if I had to make that choice. That's how awful Jindal has been for Louisiana.

reed1755 karma

Do you get a lot of criticism and protesters?

TRobichaux132 karma

No. The response was over 100 to 1 in support of the new policies.

limyanko44 karma

Registered just to say this: as a former public school teacher in Jefferson Parish, who was deeply frustrated by my colleagues' advocacy for nonsense science, I really appreciate what you did. I now live in district 7 and continue to work in education (although not as a teacher). You had my vote in November.

Thank you.

TRobichaux19 karma

WOW! Thank You!!!

SportsPanties36 karma


TRobichaux21 karma

I've got enough on my plate at the moment, but, I am always willing to help as much as I can.

TRobichaux30 karma

FYI, you can follow me on Twitter @TRobichaux

boredlike13 karma

A tweet about your AMA will work as verification.

TRobichaux14 karma

I did tweet the following: "I will be on Reddit.com today doing an AMA session from noon to 2 pm."

TRobichaux20 karma

Thanks for that. I am very new to reddit and not sure of all of the protocols.

enemyno929 karma

Try throwing in a couple of these http://i.imgur.com/wEllZ.gif

TRobichaux18 karma

Funny, But that looks like it may have hurt! LOL

gizmo_fox29 karma

I have nothing to ask, but I want to say thank you. As a former student of one of the public schools in southern Louisiana I had to deal with teachers dismissing evolution as "just a theory" and then play catch up when I got to college. I hope the rest of the school boards in Louisiana some day follow this example.

TRobichaux4 karma


tinyirishgirl27 karma

You Sir are living proof to my mind that courage and dignity and honor can abide in a single human being in these days of peril. I wish you the very best and want to say I am honored to meet you.

TRobichaux24 karma

Thank you so much! It is always humbling to receive such praise.

boredlike24 karma

What is your opinion on the Westboro Baptist Church? I can assume you're not exactly fond of them, but what do you have to say about their activities such as funeral picketing?

TRobichaux148 karma

Reprehensible hatemongering opportunist attention whores perverting Jesus' message of Love. God is Love. WBC is hate. Not a hard distinction to observe.

pnwgirl23 karma

I ask this with the utmost respect~what does being gay have to do with your position on creationism or intelligent design? That seems to be the first way you identify yourself.

TRobichaux71 karma

Actually nothing, but the stories that gave rise to this whole AMA focused on it. Also because along with the anti-creationism policies we passed a new VERY tough anti-bullying policy and I have been at the forefront of that fight in the legislature for several years. The same people that push ID/creationism have fought tooth and nail to stop anti-bullying legislation getting passed due to its protection of LGBT kids.

GabeReal22 karma

What's the difference between a parish and a county?

TRobichaux63 karma

A Parish and a County are the same thing. The nomenclature is different here due to our French colonial history.

heartshapesANDninjas22 karma

I went to pre-k, kinder, middle and high school in Texas. When I questioned these teachings, I had death threats from certain groups in the school. Do you get death threats?

TRobichaux58 karma

No. No threats at all, except from a close friend who is a evangelical who said I was going to hell. Doesn't stop us from drinking together, though. Hmm.

repealcreationism17 karma

Tom Robichaux is awesome!

TRobichaux14 karma

So are you Zack!

TRobichaux17 karma

Thank you all for participating. I am very happy and amazed at the number of questions and participants. I may do this again in a few weeks. Perhaps on a different issue. Any suggestions?

iheartdna16 karma

Hello sir, I am a public high school biology teacher fighting the good fight with my anti-evolution students every year. I wonder if you have a moment, I recently asked a question on r/atheism that I would like your opinion on. I will be attending a faculty meeting in an hour about this matter. Here is the thread

TRobichaux18 karma

I look at the thread quickly. If that is a public school, I think you should send a formal letter of complaint and then contact your local ACLU.

AnotherDrunkenBum12 karma

What was the best argument for allowing them? What was the lamest argument?

TRobichaux82 karma

The policies actually passed unanimously and there were no comments against it from the public in all four public hearings. I personally spoke for the policies as did my new friend Zack Kopplin @repealthelsea. The reason for passing it were: 1) Only scienc should be taught in a science class; 2) ID/creationism is NOT science, it is faith, a fact upheld by 200 years of scientific consensus and the US Supreme Court; 3) Students who learn ID/Creationism cannot get admitted to many universities without taking a remedial course (they don't recognize the credit); 3) Our students must be able to compete on a national and international level; when they graduate. Learning ID/creationism makes them a laughingstock when they go on to college, especially the higher ranked colleges; 4) It is our duty as a school board to give our children an actual education, not an education that will relegate them to the most menial jobs in society.

AnotherDrunkenBum10 karma

Thanks for the answer, I am shocked. Good reasoning though :)

504boy6 karma

Wow I didn't realize Zack Kopplin was only 19. That's nuts.

TRobichaux9 karma

Yep. And he started when he was in High School several years ago. he is a pretty great guy.

aworldwithoutsmell11 karma

New Orleans is a wonderful city, I think fondly of it often. I don't know much about you but I'm sure I could read things online, however I'd rather hear more from you some of the things that have led you to where you're at, and motivated you to create change in your environment. Finally, if you could change the national education policies in any way you would like, what would you do? Thanks for doing this ama

TRobichaux29 karma

I was raised to believe that all citizens have a duty to serve their fellow man in whatever capacity they can, and to be a force for good in the world. I have a personal obsession with "saving the world" or at least my little part of it. Because of that, It is only natural that I stand up for what I know to be right. As to the national policies, I would actually fund public education as it should be funded for a free society. Education is the single most important legacy that one generation leaves to the next. The traditional system did not just fail us, we failed the system. It has produced the exact caliber of students that we should expect given the lack of attention and money that we put into it. The system need to be updated, not destroyed.

Hipolymerduck9 karma

Dear Mr. Robichaux,

What do you plan on doing to people accused of bullying? I'm probably going to be villainized for asking this, do you not worry that creating stricter anti-bullying policies could backlash? I was picked on quite a bit in my younger days and at the time I was upset about it. Isn't adversity something that makes us stronger though? I'm not for kids bullying other kids, but most bullies come from backgrounds in which they themselves are bullied by their parents/siblings. Wouldn't giving them more punishments from their actions in turn cause more punishments at home, thereby adding an extra negative step in their own abusive cycle?

Furthermore, I'd like to point out that I think you're absolutely wonderful for standing against creationism and other pseudo-science taught in schools. Regardless of how you answer my question I will always appreciate the fact that you're a good person trying to do good things.

TRobichaux24 karma

The new bullying policy comes with teacher and staff education. They will be receiving a comprehensive course on how to handle situations and maintain everyone's rights, including the rights of the accused. The most important part is that teachers who do nothing are subject to discipline.


What is your favorite thing about living in New Orleans?

TRobichaux30 karma

EVERYTHING! The food, the music, the talent, a party for a drop of a hat! But when I moved to the O.C. for law school, i found that I missed the music the most. It's everywhere here.

trophypants7 karma

What's the biggest challenge of getting bipartisan support on such an emotional issue such as creationism/god in schools? What was your individual strategy and how did that strategy evolve over time? Anything you'd change in hindsight?

Thank you so much for the great educational opportunities you provided our children with. I'm of the opinion that education is the secret to long term economic/cultural success of our country so I try and stay very involved with the issues affecting as much I can. Hope to someday run for local school board when I'm older. Thanks!

TRobichaux27 karma

The elected Republicans in NOLA are socially VERY moderate. The sole Republican on the board told me he would vote for the policies unless Jesus himself called him and told him not to. I understand JC called collect but the Republican refused the charges.... LOL

NeverEnufWTF6 karma

Do you wear a cape? Because, seriously, that's some superhero stuff you're doing.

TRobichaux28 karma

No. No cape. Edna Mode says they are passe'... But, I have recently gotten into reading some super-hero comics. Something I never really did as a kid.

blindchameleon6 karma

I used to work at Sarah T Reed and lived in New Orleans for most of my life. The Recovery School District seemed like it was supposed to be a temporary solution for after Katrina.


Is there going to be any return to normalcy for the district?

Do you think the charter system is good? Isn't it just another name for privatizing the schools?

Do you think standardized testing is an effective means for gauging education effectiveness, especially for younger grades?

The issues in RSD run deep and start in the students' homes and communities. What is the school board doing to engage communities and create better environments for education?

Thanks for the AMA!

TRobichaux3 karma

There was never any real intent to return schools to the OPSB until it is dismantled and made an appointed board. Despite the laws to the contrary and the intent of the act voted on by the people of Louisiana. The RSD has been corrupt since it started. When they took over the schools they took over all of the corruption as well. The OPSB chrters are EXCELLENT because we monitor them closely. Charters are a good management tool, because we cannot expect one superintendent to run 100 schools at the same time. However, there MUST be a balance between the autonomy and the control. PUBLIC accountability is KEY. Our charters, for instance have to abide by our general policies when we adopt them, they cannot just do whatever they want.

TRobichaux6 karma

I need to give credit to my fellow board members, and especially Seth Bloom, who also pushed for the policies to be passed.

giantpandasonfire5 karma

I just wanted to say that this is like really freaking amazing, especially after LA tried to pass the bill in regards to religious schools earlier and apparently they found out that there are religions that exist outside of Christianity.

I'm not a militant atheist or anything but please keep up the good work. People like you are the people that remind me that maybe humanity isn't doomed for a complete downward spiral afterall, maybe just...you know like a downward semi-circle or something.

TRobichaux4 karma


coatrack685 karma

I don't understand why universities don't have standards that penalize students that have had these "science classes."

How can you have a biologist or doctor that doesn't believe in a standard of biology, or an engineer that believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old?

TRobichaux10 karma

Some do. The University of California system will not accept your high school science credit if they find out it teaches ID/creationism in science class.

dducrest4 karma

Hi, I'm a former Louisiana resident now doing software development for a science education start-up in Georgia.

Affirming evolution as a scientific theory is a great step, but do you have any further plans to better teach science as a living body of work? (one that changes to include new understanding)

Do you have plans to better teach science as the process of critical thinking?

TRobichaux10 karma

I am a big advocate of teaching critical thinking at a young age. Since I am leaving the board I can do little now. However, I plan on entering into a venture which will allow me to assist other school districts in achieving what the OPSB has done. i.e., going from 25th to 2nd in the state and near bankruptcy to an Aa+ bond rating, all in less than 8 years.

dducrest3 karma

Well, congratulations on those accomplishments and good luck.

My company is greatly interested in helping to teach science better while making better use of funding. Feel free to check us out at: http://www.is3d-online.com

TRobichaux2 karma

I will definitely check it out.

goirish22004 karma

Looking specifically at the state of secondary education in New Orleans, what do you think is the first action that OPSB needs to take in order to improve its schools?

Similarly, how does one justify selective admission schools that are flourishing sharing the same school board with open-enrollment schools that are struggling to keep things together? How do we diversify investment in a way to support all students, not just the ones who can make it into and keep it together at schools like Lusher?

Teachers should be paid more. Can you, um, do that?

TRobichaux3 karma

It is one of the drawbacks of a Charter system. I firmly believe that there is a place in our systemn for selective admissions schools. Gifted kids need to be around other gifted kids to reach their full potential. However, all schools must be and are funded at the same levels. The central office also has teams of teachers that can go to schools and assist in specific subject areas that we find students are not succeeding in. this is one of the most important functions of the superintendent - to identify problem areas and send additional assistance.

saybruh3 karma

First, How do you feel the voucher system is going to affect education in Orleans parish? Second, what are your thoughts on the constant budget cuts that UNO has dealt with over the last 4 years and is there anything out elected officials can do at the municipal level to help it( also, do you think they would be inclined to do so if they could?). Lastly, where do you see the education system in Orleans parish heading in the next 10 years? Thanks again for doing this AMA. It's a nice distraction from this weather.

TRobichaux12 karma

The voucher sytem is a failure. Its sole purpose is to allow taxpayer funding of "Christian" schools. A voucher system is premised on a free market approach, but all schools do do have to take them, nor do they have to cover the full cost of tuition, so the only schools that take them are ones that need to fill empty seats, and they have empty seats because they are not great schools. (although there are those that created seats just to take the money). our local leaders are told what to do in education by the Cowan institute and Leslie Jacobs. Both have led the charge to destroy the School Board. They want an appointed board that they can control. I have grave concerns about the new OPSB, but I will keep them to myself for now, and hope that I am wrong.

Tehjo3 karma

Thanks for helping to bring a little bit of sense back into our schools.

Have you ever eaten at Bayona on Dauphine? Its a great restaurant and you should try it if you haven't.

TRobichaux2 karma

I have, but not in quite a while. Probably 3 years.

Vogeltanz3 karma

Hi Mr. Robichaux -- three quick questions, if you please:

  1. What's the end game between the OPSB and the Recovery School District? In other words, do you foresee a time in which all (or substantially all) schools are removed from the RSD and placed back under the jurisdiction of the OPSB?

  2. For that matter, how do you feel about the RSD, and charter schools in general? Do you think it's accomplishing it's mission to turn around failing schools?

  3. Will Orleans Parish ever have an abundance of top-tier public schools? And how do you think we'll get there?

Thanks very much -- and Kudos for getting rid of those damn Texas revisionist school books!

TRobichaux2 karma

I do not think we are going to see many (or any) schools returning unless our lawsuit is successful on that issue. (it is in the court of appeals right now). The state has changed the metric by which they score schools every year for 5 years, so we don't actually know how much they are improving. HOWEVER, the recent ACT scores are significant, and the first real evidence of improvement in the RSD schools. Note that not one elementary school student on Orleans Parish has ever attended a failing OPSB school. So why are any RSD elementary schools still failing?
The OPSB currently has 3 NATIONALLY ranked schools - Ben Franklin Hign, Lusher and Lake Forewst Elementary. In addition, several of our other open admission charters are very close to being nationally ranked as well (and may be after this years' stats come out). So yes, I think if the board stays on the right path, we can see OPSB with several dozen top-tier schools.

athoesen3 karma

Hey I'm glad you made it over here finally! I'm not sure if you remember, but I made the original AMA request and emailed your website.

I guess the most important questions that haven't been answered already would be:

1) Are there any other policies that you feel as strong about, or almost as strongly about, still in place and plan on fighting?

2) How do we fight these fights in our own school districts?

3) Since you've lost re-election, will you run again?

4) Do you have any advice from a School Board President perspective on this person's situation in Alabama?

5) Is there anything that someone in a far away state can do to help those in the Bible Belt education system? Is there any way we can lend support?

6) Why can't the ACLU and other rights organizations fight harder against Louisiana Family Forum and other such ignorance-based organizations?

I read the story about you on r/atheism right after I read the other Louisiana story about a different official trying to push creationism. We need more people like you involved, and if you'd be willing to accept it I think we should put something together on r/atheism to help you pay off your campaign debt. I'd donate.

TRobichaux2 karma

1) Are there any other policies that you feel as strong about, or almost as strongly about, still in place and plan on fighting?

I think we got most everything passed that I needed to, but I am always looking to improve existing policies. It is a constant work in progress.

2) How do we fight these fights in our own school districts?

Find a progressive board member and get them to propose the changes, then make sure that you show up in force to support them. 3) Since you've lost re-election, will you run again? eventually in a year or 3...

4) Do you have any advice from a School Board President perspective on this person's situation in Alabama?


5) Is there anything that someone in a far away state can do to help those in the Bible Belt education system? Is there any way we can lend support? Pay attention to our local politics and help the good people get elected and re-elected. Also, groups that send emails and letters of support or opposition to board members can have a significant impact.

6) Why can't the ACLU and other rights organizations fight harder against Louisiana Family Forum and other such ignorance-based organizations? They do a decfent job, but The LFF is very good at doing things behind the scenes. They really control the Governor's agenda. I watched a bill get passed last year where the sponsor stood up and said "this is a bill supported by the Louisiana Family Forum, and we need to pass it." nothing else was said by anyone, and it passed. I was dumbfounded.

yadoya3 karma

Hi Sir, I don't know you but just wanted to say that as a French guy, I cannot process the fact you aren't French with such a 155.23% French name.

TRobichaux2 karma

Je suis Acadien.

Ihmhi2 karma

What are your thoughts on "Zero tolerance" policies in schools?

For example, zero tolerance fighting policies. If you're involved in a fight - even if you get bloodied up and don't throw a punch - you're suspended. All participants are suspended for equal time. IMO, wouldn't this encourage reciprocal violence? I mean, if I had a kid going to school where this was a policy, I'd tell him to get every hit in that he can if someone tries to hurt him. If he's gonna be suspended it may as well be worth it.

Then there's stuff like a kid with a butter knife in his lunchbox getting expelled, or a kid having to take mandatory counseling because he drew a picture of a gun or something...

TRobichaux11 karma

Any time you have an arbitrary absolute, it is anathema to justice. While our current policy says "Zero Tolerance" it is not a draconian absurdity like you have described. Reason must prevail.

Zelamir2 karma

Hi there and thanks a million for doing this AMA!!

Just to give you a quick demographic look at myself, I'm a 28 year old female homeowner and I moved here 8 years ago from Detroit Michigan.

My greatest concern with staying in New Orleans is the education of children should I decide to have any. I graduated High School from a magnet school in Detroit, but for the life of me I am having a very difficult time understanding the school system(s) in New Orleans Parish. Years ago Detroit's program seemed simple. You took a test and if you scored high enough you were given the choice of attending three alternative schools.

The differences in magnet, charter, and public schools are so vast that I don't even know where to begin in navigating them. Further more what I knew as a magnet or charter school back in the day doesn't seem to apply to what they have become now.

I have flitted around the social scene looking for others in my age group to discuss this with (504ward and a few entrepreneurial groups) but the opinions on these different types of schools and very polarized. I've encountered everything from mothers claiming racism and classicism when their child didn't get into a certain school, to people saying that they have no other option then to send their child to a private institution.

I suppose that my questions are...

What are my option as a future parent when it comes to the education of a child?

What are the differences in charter, public, and magnet schools in New Orleans?

TRobichaux2 karma

That is a big question and a L-O-N-G answer. You can send me an email or private message and we can talk later.

Hells882 karma

Do you subscribe to the attic theory? There's limited amount of space in the brain for information?

TRobichaux8 karma


meshautesidees2 karma

I'm a resident of New Orleans. What can we do to solve the crime problem that this city faces? What effect will improving the public school system have?

TRobichaux11 karma

We cannot arrest ourselves out of our crime problem. We can only educate ourselves out of our crime problem. Education is the key to crime, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, the economy, and most of society's ills. That's why I take the job so seriously.

DrProfPatrick282 karma

I do not know if this question is appropriate or not but I had to ask. Have you received any death threats regarding this recent decision?

TRobichaux2 karma


CajunJAG1 karma

I am the parent of a child in St. Landry Parish zoned for a failing school. First of all thank you for standing up to those that want creationism taught.

I wonder what you think about the new voucher program that was put into place?

TRobichaux2 karma

I commented on that earlier. It is a failed program the sole purpose of which is to allow taxpayer funds to go to "Christian" schools.

Aoladari1 karma

Do you aspire to an elected position with the city/state or do you think you might be at your peak considering you're in "the deep south?"

-que banjo music

TRobichaux16 karma

I am taking a break to pay off my campaign debt, which is substantial, and get my personal life back in order. I do plan to run again for either the State House or City Council, but have no definite plans just yet. IAs for "Hitting my peak"... I am like Obi-Wan Kenobi--- they may have stricken me down, but I shall become stronger than they can imagine!! May the force be with me!

Aoladari8 karma

Live long and prosper!

TRobichaux6 karma

Peace and Long Life!

abyssea1 karma

What is your take on Jindal's new education reform whereas he seems to put little to no responsibility on the parents to assist their children with studying at night and puts all the blame on the teacher with the constant threat of termination?

TRobichaux10 karma

Teachers have been demonized and made the scapegoats for a system that we have all but completely abandoned. While I agree that tenure needs to be reformed, Jindal killed it almost completely. One of the worst part of the reforms is that while public schools and teachers are evaluated and penalized, the private schools that take public money through vouchers have no accountability at all. (OK, they have some thin on-paper accountability, but my experience is that without PUBLIC accountability, there IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY!)