(ANTIMEDIA) Denver, CO — Several coaches and school administrators in Colorado have been placed on leave while Denver police investigate videos showing eight Denver East High School cheerleaders being forced into splits while crying out in pain. According to local NBC affiliate 9News, the videos were recorded on the phones of two team members and sent anonymously to the station this week, but the school has reportedly known about it for months.
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Recorded during the first week of cheer camp in June, the alarming footage shows the girls being repeatedly pushed into forced splits, held in place by their own teammates while cheerleading coach Ozell Williams repeatedly pushes down on their shoulders. All of the cheerleaders cry out in pain, and incoming freshman Ally Wakefield is heard asking Williams to “please stop” 9 times in under 30 seconds.
Ally’s leg was injured as a result of the abuse, which led the girl’s mother, Kristin Wakefield, to contact the school. “I have attached a video of the forced splits she and her other team members were forced to do at cheerleading camp and practices; unless they had a doctor’s note. This is how Ally injured her leg,” Wakefield said in the June 15 email addressed to East High School Athletic Director, Lisa Porter.
“My husband and I would like to know what the administration is going to do about my daughter’s injury and how it happened,” the email continued.
Parents have been lodging complaints against the coach for months, according to 9News, but an investigation began only after Denver Police received anonymous information regarding the abuse on August 23rd.
“On August 23, 2017, the Denver Police Department received anonymous information regarding the incidents involving a cheerleader coach at East High School, and Denver Police child abuse detectives immediately began an investigation. This is an open case, therefore no additional details or videos will be provided at this time,” the police announced in a statement released Thursday.
Denver Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg claims he had no prior knowledge of the videos in a statement to 9News that read:
“Earlier today, I became aware of an exercise used at cheer practices this summer at East High School. We immediately began taking steps to investigate this issue, and our Department of Safety is supporting Denver Police in this effort.
The statement also said:
“With regards to certain videos, I cannot state strongly enough – as the superintendent of the school district and as the father of two high school-aged daughters ‚ that the images and actions depicted are extremely distressing and absolutely contrary to our core values as a public school community.”
This would have been Ozell Williams’ first year coaching the East High School cheer team.