UPDATE: On Monday, October 16, BuzzFeed reported that the Denver District Attorney’s Office would not be filing criminal charges against the cheerleading coach who could be seen on video forcing students into painful splits.
Though the coach was fired that month, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement that she "concluded that the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges."
Read on for our original story below.
Denver police are investigating the administration at East High School after receiving multiple videos of cheerleaders being forced into painful splits.
One of the videos, which has been released to the public, shows several cheerleaders holding out another student’s legs and arms as a coach pushes her down. In the 24-second recording, she repeatedly cries out in pain and begs them to "please stop" nine times before the coach finally pulls her up. The video can be viewed here, but please be warned that the footage is disturbing.
The student, who has identified herself as Ally, appeared on 9News with her mother Kirsten Wakefield. "This is a grown man pushing my 13-year-old girl so hard against her will while she is crying and screaming for him to stop that he is ripping tissues in her body," Wakefield says. She also told CBS Denver that Ally suffered a burst blood vessel from the incident and is currently in physical therapy.
Wakefield says she sent the video to the school in June, but the administration didn't launch an investigation until Wednesday, August 23, which is the same day the Denver Police Department received an anonymous tip and launched their own investigation, The Huffington Post reports.
"We absolutely prohibit any practices that place our students’ physical and mental health in jeopardy," said Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg. "We do not and will not allow any situation in which a student is forced to perform an activity or exercise beyond the point at which they express their desire to stop."
In a statement to The Denver Post, cheer coach Ozell Williams claims the videos are taken out of context. "You can definitely say that what was in the video could be seen in a different light," he told the outlet. "I would love to tell my story, but I can’t say anything else at this time."
The school's principal, assistant principal, and DPS deputy general counsel have been placed on leave along with Williams and assistant cheer coach Mariah Cladis.