Katy ISD trustees censured for communicating with former athlete suing district

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- Two school board trustees were publicly reprimanded Thursday night during a special session of Katy ISD's school board.

The meeting flared discord among members, following the public release of findings from an independent investigation by an outside law firm.

"If I was an employee, I would be terminated immediately," said Trustee Lance Redmon.

"What you're hearing tonight is their effort to silence you and me," said Trustee Dawn Champagne to a group of supporters in attendance.

It all stems from former Katy High School quarterback Bronson McClelland. In 2019, McClelland was disciplined for using the N-word in a video that was posted online.

SEE ALSO: Katy HS varsity football player facing discipline after racist video: Katy ISD

He and his family apologized publicly.

"I'm not trying to justify my use of the word. I should not be using the word. I haven't used the word since then," the teenager previously told ABC13.

But he claims the public discipline from Katy ISD cost him scholarships and other opportunities. A year later, during his senior season at Katy High School, he was kicked off the team when Katy ISD says marijuana was found in his car.

His family says it was a product similar to CBD oil. The McClellands have filed several lawsuits, both criminal and civil, against the district and Katy High School administrators.

And throughout the course of these legal battles, school board president Greg Schulte says two trustees, Champagne and Leah Wilson, had inappropriate communication with the football player's father, Colburn.

SEE ALSO: Former Katy Tigers star Bronson McClelland wants to be back on football team after racist video

"Laws and ethical standards were definitely violated," said Trustee Ashley Vann.

In November 2021, the school board hired an independent law firm to investigate potential communication between board members and the plaintiffs, that was not being disclosed to Katy ISD general counsel.

The law firm's findings state Champagne "believed engaging in ongoing communication with CM would improve her chances of being reelected and attaining a leadership role on the board."

But during the school board meeting, Champagne fought back saying, "This is a continued effort to diminish my community engagement and prevent me from understanding issues from your perspective."

"They do not want me to converse with people who disagree with them," she said.

The findings also accuse Trustee Leah Wilson of receiving emails and text messages from Colburn. The outside attorneys say both women may have violated the law barring the destruction of public information.

They're accused of allegedly deleting texts and emails from Colburn McClelland on their personal devices. But after spending an estimated $30,000 and more than four months on the investigation there was criticism from at least one trustee.

"This process has been a diversion from what we're supposed to do, take care of children," said Rebecca Fox.

Champagne was stripped of her role as board secretary after the board voted to reallocate that role. Duke Keller was named the new Secretary.

Wilson declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Katy ISD said it's unclear if the board will move forward on any criminal investigation.

The attorney representing the McClelland family, Keith Donati, sent the following statement:

KISD has a practice of hiding behind their government immunity and an unlimited budget. Apparently, a few board members disagreed with their mishandling of my clients' case, took a stand, and opposed the KISD administration. As a result, two of these board members were retaliated against at last night's meeting. My clients are a strong and courageous family and appreciate board members who are willing to take a stand against lies and injustices. We are currently involved in litigation in both the federal & state courts. As the depositions of KISD defendants are completed, which will be audio & video recorded, we will gladly make these available to the news media and general public. The bad conduct of certain KISD administrators will be evident to all. We remain confident that when all the facts are brought out, the public will finally have an accurate understanding of just how far KISD will go to protect themselves from their unlawful and inappropriate treatment of a student.

When reached by phone, Bronson McClelland's mother, Angie McClelland, said her son is "doing the best he can with the hand he was dealt." She told ABC13 he is thriving at a Texas college where he is captain of the football team and on the dean's honor roll. She declined to say where Bronson McClelland is currently enrolled.

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