Parents of two Black Klein High School students who were members of the 2020-21 varsity cheerleading squad suspect foul play (racism), administrator incompetence, or some combination of the two, as the reason their daughters did not make Klein’s 2022-23 squad. And they want several things, including a cheerleader tryout “redo,” and for Klein ISD to institute major changes to the cheerleader selection process.
Parents Allegra Cloud Jackson and Vickie Dowell enlisted the support of local activists Quanell X (New Black Panther Nation) and Dr. Candice Matthews (Rainbow Push Coalition), along with attorney Yancy Carter, to help give voice to their call for an investigation into the matter during a recent press conference held in front of the school.
One of the issues Jackson and Dowell had with the cheerleader tryout process was that, according to them, certain cheer candidates were given an advantage over others even before tryouts began.
Jackson explained that the varsity head cheer coach, Kiamesha White, who was over the entire program, was out on FML at the time. However, prior to that, she paid a cheer professional $250 to develop the tryout routine materials. That professional sent videos electronically to the freshman cheer coach who was covering for White while out.
“The 9th grade cheer coach shared the tryout material electronically with another student, a cheerleader who was an outgoing, graduating senior,” said Jackson. “The coach sent this to the [cheerleader/graduating senior] via text message in advance of the tryout clinic. That student was supposed to share the material with eight other outgoing (graduating senior) cheerleaders so they could be prepared to assist with teaching the routine to contestants on the day of the tryouts. However, in advance of the tryout date, the student shared the tryout material electronically with cheer candidates who were going to try out for the 2022-23 team. This gave those candidates an unfair advantage going into the tryout, because our daughters didn’t receive that material”
“We believe that what took place was unethical and unprofessional,” said X. “Therefore, we are requesting that Klein ISD, the district office, superintendent and the board disqualify the selection process that took place this year and start the process all over again.
X also said the parents want someone brought in from outside Klein ISD for the sake of transparency and improved integrity, to me part of the process.
Also at issue: students profiting off Klein ISD materials via sharing tryout routine information before the actual tryouts.
“The KHS senior cheerleaders who had the tryout materials in advance of the tryout clinic, charged contestants who were interested in private lessons $25 per person to teach them the tryout material. One student made an excess of $700. Another student made a couple hundred and one, for sure, made $50,” said Jackson.
Jackson described those actions as a theft of intellectual property paid for by Klein HS as “falling under the category of making people pay-to-play.”
“What is shocking to me is that a young lady on the cheer squad was allowed to charge others who wanted to pay to be taught this routine $25 per person, so they could know the routine and make the squad,” said X. “The district admits that this young girl made $750. How in the hell are you going to let a cheerleader at the school have a side hustle and get paid off the backs of other students who are trying to make the same cheer squad? That is unethical and unprofessional.”
Matthews, whose daughter attends Klein HS, also spoke at the press conference.
“I am appalled to even hear about this foolishness that is happening and disenfranchising our children,” she said. “Then again, I’m really not. The first issue, we had a COVID, racist teacher in the classroom who was running around here saying the N-word online, then turned around and said, ‘Why do we have Black history.’ Then, just two weeks ago, we had the school board of Klein ISD to try to disenfranchise people of color like us to even speak about the disparity study in order for them to pass that bond.
“We had a teacher who was just at Klein Collins HS who, I guess wanted to be frisky and running around here playing porn for the kids. Now, you’re over here doing this, to disenfranchise girls of color so you can promote an all-white cheer squad? We are denouncing this. There needs to be another tryout.”
Klein ISD’s Justin Elbert said the school’s outgoing senior cheerleaders were allowed to possess a copy of the routine video, to help with teaching the choreography to candidates, as Jackson acknowledged. Regarding the accusation that those cheerleaders shared that information with cheerleader candidates, a Klein ISD letter stated, “We cannot say with absolute certainty that any candidates received the tryout material in advance. As a campus, we will acknowledge that there are some things that we could improve upon in the tryout process.
“In an effort to remedy that concern, we will be creating a detailed plan for our tryout process, which we will follow moving forward and will collaborate with other campuses to ensure the best tryout experience for our students. We will present this plan to the Klein ISD Department of Campus Safety and Support for approval to ensure that we have a strong process in place for future cheer tryouts.”
Jackson received a letter from the school prior to the press conference with the same language.
The Defender was not able to secure comments from any members of Klein HS beyond those words shared in the letter.
The daughters of Jackson and Dowell were two of five Black cheerleaders on the 2021-22 Klein HS squad. The three other Black cheerleaders, however, are outgoing, graduating seniors. Additionally, all of the remaining returning varsity cheerleaders made the 2022-23 team except for Jackson and Dowell’s daughters, whose names their parent did not want shared for fear of retaliation.
Then, there’s the issue of the judges of the tryouts, which Dowell and Jackson agreed was neither diverse nor credentialed.
“Whenever you have judges on the panel to judge these cheerleader tryouts, everyone has to have a certain credential, either National Cheerleader Association of Universal Cheerleader Association certification and/or membership. In the case of this year’s Klein HS cheerleader tryout judges possessing those credentials, some of them did, some of them didn’t,” said Jackson.
Jackson and her husband said the standard practice in the district is that there are three signatures on cheerleader score cards, but that this year’s Klein HS score cards fell short.
“The score sheets lacked the appropriate signatures and contained, scratch outs and edits,” said Jackson. “The score sheets also had the cheer administrator’s initials on them in areas where a judge should have been initialing a change. But the initials that are there are for the cheer administrator who was in sole possession of the score sheets for over a week during spring break, before they were made available to parents who wanted them.”
According to the aggrieved parents, Klein Oak High School, also a member school of Klein ISD, experienced a similar situation impacting their cheerleading team’s only two Black members.
“As a result of their tryouts, their team was all-white until parents contested. They took it all the way up to the district, where the decision was overturned, and they let the two Black girls on the team,” said Jackson. “The bottom line is, Klein ISD has a pattern of corruption and racial discrimination.”
According to Jackson, Klein HS conducted two investigations into the matter, but reportedly found no irregularities beyond an admission that the cheer tryout process could stand to be improved.
“The assistant principal responsible for overseeing the cheer program, Alexandra Lammers, told us, ‘I did an investigation.’ We asked her who did she talk to. She responded, ‘I talked to random students and all of them denied it.’ For her, that was enough,” said Jackson.
Jackson says the school’s principal, Brandon Baker, assigned another of the school’s assistant principals, Johnnie Hayes to conduct his own investigation into the parents’ complaints from scratch.
“Principal Baker didn’t give us the details of Mr. Hayes’ investigation. He stopped right there, even though the students from the cheer program came running back to us saying what was going on. Baker would only tell us what AP Lammer said. And according to them, there were no findings.”
Jackson says White, the now former Klein HS head varsity cheer coach, was troubled by the results of the tryouts upon her return to campus.
“They posted [the tryout results] and did everything without me even knowing, so I didn’t even know they were getting ready to post” said White. “Nobody said anything to me when I got back. So, I don’t know what they did. They talked about everything without me. They picked stuff without me. But, when I saw the names on [the 2022-23 list] I said, ‘Whoa, because I know what everybody can do.’ So, I looked at the list and I’m very confused at who made it, not saying that some couldn’t get the skills and be great, but I’m just confused on why certain people did not make it that I know who should have been on the top of the list.”
White admitted she didn’t know what contestants’ scores were or what decisions were made, because of her absence during tryouts, but that she was troubled when she heard reports that tryout materials were leaked prior to the actual tryout.
According to Jackson, White wanted to debrief with those who made the final decision on the 2022-23 team, but was ignored, and the results of the selections were “hurriedly” made public.
“Ms. White is the only person in that school who’s credentialed to even be a cheer coach, because she’s a professional,” said Jackson.
“The former cheer coach came back [to campus] after a Family Medical Leave absence, she saw what was talking place she looked into it, and she believed what she was looking at it seemed unethical and unprofessional, and that discrimination had taken place with these two African American girls who were not given a chance to compete fairly to rejoin the varsity cheerleader squad that they were already on the year before,” said X.
Pointing to a copy of a letter sent to Jackson by Klein ISD during the recent press conference, X stated, “The district admits right here that they have problems with the selection process and that the scoring process is flawed.”
According to the other aggrieved parent, Dowell, certain parents of other Klein HS cheerleaders had negative opinions of Jackson and wanted White out as head cheerleader coach.
“Basically, there were conversations that have taken place that another parent was privy to, but she was pretty uncomfortable with those conversations (between other cheer parents and the cheer administrator and AP Alexandra Lammers). This parent, who doesn’t want to be named, said the other cheer parents were plotting against the African American coach [White] and that they were coming for her, and that Allegra is a pain in the ass,” said Dowell.
Here is a brief summary of some of the issues/charges these parents outlined:
- The only two Black, veteran varsity cheerleaders eligible to return (i.e. not graduating this May/June) were the only returning cheerleaders not selected.
- The freshman grade cheer coach shared tryout material (video of the routine) with a student (cheerleader) via text message in advance of the tryout clinic. That student shared the material electronically with certain other cheer candidates, giving them an unfair advantage.
- Graduating senior cheerleaders who had the tryout material in advance of the tryout clinic, material paid for by Klein ISD, charged cheer candidates $25 per person to teach them the tryout routine, receiving profits from $25 to $725.
- Tryout score sheets were not properly authenticated, lacking appreciate signatures and containing scratch-outs and score changes. These score sheets also contained the cheer administrator’s initials, though she was not a judge.
- The tryout judges were not diverse, and several lacked National Cheerleaders Association or Universal Cheerleaders Association certification and/or membership.
- The first and only KHS Black cheer coach, who was out on family/medical leave during tryouts, informed school administrators of the tryout material leak and questioned the tryout results that left the two veteran Black cheerleaders off the squad. She resigned after her concerns about tryout results seemed to be ignored.
CORRECTION: In this week’s print edition of the Defender, it was stated that Klein HS’s 2022-23 cheerleader team is all-white. Though that was the information provided to the Defender at the time, one Black cheerleader (not one of the two whose parents called for the recent press conference) has been added to Klein HS’s 2022-23 squad.