Warning: The videos in this post are graphic and may be disturbing to watch.
DENVER - Police are investigating incidents involving multiple cheerleaders at a Denver high school who were reportedly forced into split positions and held down by other students and coaches.
Disturbing video obtained by KUSA shows eight cheerleaders repeatedly being pushed down into the forced splits, while their arms are held up by fellow teammates, making each cheerleader unable to move herself out of the position.
One of the videos shows incoming freshman, Ally Wakefield, surrounded by new teammates, and forced, by a recently hired cheer coach, into an extended split position.
In the video, Wakefield cries out in pain, asking her coach nine times in less than 24 seconds to "please, stop."
The coach, Ozell Williams, was recently hired by the high school.
In June, Wakefield's parents told KUSA they contacted the school to let them know what happened during cheer camp over the summer.
“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,” Kristen 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, in part.
The cheer coach, assistant cheer coach, high school principal, assistant principal and Denver Public Schools deputy general counsel have all been placed on leave.
Denver police have since launched their own investigation.
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg issued the following statement about the investigation:
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. In order to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, we have placed East Principal Andy Mendelsberg, East Assistant Principal Lisa Porter, East Cheer Coach Ozell Williams, East Assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and DPS Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman on leave. This is standard practice in an investigation of this type. It does not imply or prejudge in any way the actions of the individuals or what the investigation might determine. Please know that we will share the results of the investigation as soon as possible. I want to reiterate in no uncertain terms our commitment to the safety of our students. 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. While this investigation is ongoing, we are entirely focused on ensuring our students and staff at East are receiving the supports they need. A senior leader at the school, East Assistant Principal Jason Maclin, will serve as interim principal during this time and we are providing additional counseling for our students and families. 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.