Denver police investigating video of high school cheerleader forced to do splits

By Ray Downs  |  Aug. 24, 2017 at 10:24 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Denver police are investigating a high school cheerleading coach after video emerged of a cheerleader being forced to do the splits.

The video shows East High School students grabbing the legs of 13-year-old Ally Wakefield and pulling them apart to do a split as the head coach, Ozell Williams, holds her down. Wakefield cries and begs for them to stop at least nine times, but the students keep pulling apart at the direction of Williams.

Other videos obtained by KUSA-TV show eight other cheerleaders also being forced to do the splits in the same manner as Williams holds them down.

The videos were brought to the attention of school authorities in June, but no action was taken until KUSA contacted the school this week.

The school has launched an investigation and placed several school employees on leave, including Williams, Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Assistant Principal Lisa Porter, Assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and Denver Public Schools Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman.

Williams, an accomplished cheerleading athlete, is a Guinness Book of World Records holder for most consecutive handsprings by a male and a former contestant on America's Got Talent. He has also been a regular at Denver Broncos game where he does backflips and handspring tricks on the field during halftime.

Denver police are investigating the incident as a potential child abuse crime, a spokesman told The Washington Post.

In a letter to students' families, Denver Public Schools superintendent Tom Boasberg said the investigation is standard protocol and "does not imply or prejudge in any way the actions of the individuals or what the investigation might determine.

"We absolutely prohibit any practices that place our students' physical and mental health in jeopardy. 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."

Kirsten Wakefield, Ally's mother, said Williams' teaching techniques "horrified" her when she saw the video.

"My daughter showed them to me while I was driving...I almost hit a car and ran off the road," she told CBS News.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories