For the second consecutive Garden City Community College Board of Trustees meeting, former cheerleading coach Brice Knapp was a topic of contention.
Knapp, who resigned suddenly on March 29 after four years at the helm of the program, previously was accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct involving former cheerleaders by Toni Douglass, Aaron Kucharik and Eleanor Everett during the April 10 Trustees meeting, after each said they had seen letters written by former cheerleaders describing a culture of harassment, sexual innuendo and threats of revoking scholarships. GCCC student Yulissa Hernandez also described a “terrible experience” as a former cheerleader with Knapp as coach immediately following that meeting.
Four of those letters were written by former GCCC cheerleaders or dancers, including Liz Everett and Sydney Rodriguez, and a fifth was written by the mother, Laura Aberle, of former cheerleader Lindsey Aberle. All five letters have been obtained by The Telegram.
A sixth former cheerleader — Jade Denton — addressed the board during the public comment section on Tuesday night with allegations against Knapp, and Douglass address the board again.
Nine other former cheerleaders — some of whom had spoken previoulsy with The Telegram — also spoke Tuesday and contradicted some of their former teammates' descriptions of Knapp, instead describing him as a wonderful coach.
All of the public comments were shortened to less than two minutes because 14 people had signed up to address the board. Usually, public comments are limited to five minutes per person and 30 minutes total.
“I have known Brice since my junior year in high school, and I never would have thought he would have turned out like this,” Denton said.
She then listed comments she said were made by Knapp to other cheerleaders.
“It’s not your fault you have a fat ass,” Denton said Knapp told a teammate. “This was said to a girl who fell out of a stunt and got a concussion.”
She also said that Knapp told another cheerleader that she had become more flexible because she had gone on vacation with her boyfriend.
Denton also said that Knapp made racist comments during team functions.
“A Hispanic girl was doing box jumps, and she was scared to jump over the tallest one, so Brice said, ‘Jump over it like your family jumps over the border,’” Denton said.
The Telegram previously obtained screenshots from a private Facebook page for GCCC cheerleaders, in which Knapp made disparaging comments towards Mexicans.
When setting up a time for an athletic banquet, Knapp wrote in a Facebook comment, “ … after thinking more about what time i said to be there i realized we have mexicans on our team who are traditionally late so lets move our show up time to 5:00 [sic]”
However, other cheerleaders on Tuesday told the board that Knapp looked out for his cheerleaders and had helped them in their personal endeavors. Many of them said the accusations were false, made up by individuals with a vendetta.
They also expressed concern for how the allegations were affecting Knapp’s family — he has a wife and two boys.
“Brice, in my opinion, has done nothing wrong,” said cheerleader Ruben Perez. “He’s done nothing but good for his team. Everything he did was for our team. We were a second family.”
Another member of the team, Vionna Van Dyne, said, “it just breaks my heart to see all these terrible things being spread around about coach Knapp. This is always someone who has been there for me from all the tough times I’ve had.”
Erwin Vides described Knapp as turning the GCCC program into a competitive squad. After taking over in April 2014, GCCC has won three of four Region VI championships and took eighth (2016), third (2017) and fourth (2018) at the National Cheer Association championship in Daytona, Fla.
Prior to his resignation, Knapp was told by college officials that he would not be allowed to travel to Florida in early April as a result of an investigation by the college into allegations of misconduct by Knapp, according to GCCC attorney Randy Grisell.
“I just want to stand here for him and his family, because he has a family and he has kids,” Vides said about his former coach. “It isn’t just affecting him, but it’s affecting his kids and his family. It’s something really big, nothing to mess around about.”
Vides then implied that the accusers were making accusations against Knapp because they were not chosen to go to Florida for the national competition, even though all but the Everett letter were written prior to the end of March.
However, Vides also admitted that Knapp would make “stupid comments.”
“Sorry if you didn’t make it to mat on nationals, sorry you weren’t good enough … Now you’re going to throw him under the bus just for some stupid comments he makes sometimes?” Vides said.
Teammate Jake Hawkins made a similar comment to the board.
“(Knapp) always was motivational,” Hawkins said. “He was a very emotional guy. He showed it a lot, and there were some times he didn’t always think before he talked, but he always meant well in his heart.”
Another cheerleader, Henry Arenas, addressed the accusations of racist comments during his public comment to the board.
“You can see the team is diverse,” he said, pointing to the contingent of teammates he had with him. "I don’t know why anybody would believe he’s racist.”
After all of the cheerleaders had spoken, Douglass addressed the board.
“I stood here on April 10 and brought to you sexual harassment complaints from seven different women,” she said. “I still have those letters, and nobody has asked me to read them. I still have those complaints, and nobody has inquired on them.”
She then said she thought it was “fantastic” that Knapp had built the cheer program up and helped several of the cheerleaders who spoke.
“But I will also say to you that if he did this — sexual harassment — to even one woman, it is too much,” she said. “It’s too much.”
She then addressed the board on what changes they were planning to make, if any, in response to the allegations against Knapp.
“A simple acceptance of this cheer coach’s resignation is not enough,” she said. “What have you done? What have you implemented? What changes are happening? You, as the board, are responsible for how these kids come from this school … “
The board did not respond to Douglass’ comments specifically, though board chairman Steve Martinez thanked those who spoke.
"Thank you everybody for taking the time to and the courage to come up here and speak. I appreciate that," he said. "I know that it is not easy to do, and I appreciate everyone’s comments and concerns."
Contact Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Josh Harbour contributed to this story.