DENVER (CBS4)– Videos showing East High School cheerleaders forced into the splits are now at the center of a police investigation.
Eight different girls– all of them seen in video crying out in agony and repeatedly asking their coach to stop.
Thirteen-year-old Ally Wakefield is one of them, “I was just kind of thinking it was normal. Like i did not think much of it…”He told us it was normal.”
The video shot during a camp in June shows the coach, Ozell Williams, pushing the girls into position while teammates held them down.
Ally showed her parents Kirsten and Eric Wakefield, not knowing that what it showed could be criminal.
“When she got me in the car and told me about it I said, ‘What? That sounds crazy’ and she said, ‘Well, I have the video, I’ll show you,’” said Kirsten Wakefield.
She said she almost crashed her car after seeing those videos.
She immediately went to school officials, expecting something would be done. Now, months later and only after someone leaked those videos, are Denver police getting involved.
“I feel vindicated because we’ve been trying since the beginning of June just to get someone to hear us and be an advocate for our girls,” Kirsten Wakefield said.
DPS has now put five school administrators on leave, including coach Ozell Williams, along with East High’s principal, assistant principal, assistant cheer coach, and general counsel.
The Wakefields say they just want to make sure Williams cannot hurt anyone else.
“Some of the people were scared and they didn’t feel like they had a voice and so I just wanted to be their voice,” Ally Wakefield said.
Police are investigating this case as possible child abuse.
DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg released the following update on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, regarding allegations involving East High School: “First, I want to thank our community for your concern for the safety and well-being of our students. Please know we are supporting the Denver Police in the investigation of these allegations and we are doing all that we can to support our students and families at East and throughout the district.
We have sent notification to our athletic directors emphasizing that DPS does not allow the use of “forced splits” or any other activity that puts a student’s physical or mental health at risk, or in which a student is forced to perform an exercise beyond the point at which they express their desire to stop. I want to reiterate that this applies not just to athletics, but throughout our school communities.
This morning, counselors at East, with our district support team, worked with all the members of the cheer team — to bring them together as team, to address the students’ concerns, and to emphasize our commitment to their safety and well-being. Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova and I also personally called the parents of every member of the East cheer team to offer support and answer their questions.
We know how deeply concerned our community is about the events that took place. We are reviewing the supports and resources currently in place for both students and educators, and we will propose additional efforts to ensure our school communities are educated about, and empowered to prevent, traumatic situations such as those depicted in the videos of East cheer practice.
We are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all our students, at East High School and throughout Denver Public Schools. We will provide additional information when we can.”
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.