A Denver High school coach has been terminated after a video surfaced of him pushing a 13-year-old cheerleader into a split (video below).
East High coach Ozell Williams was put on administrative leave before being fired after he was caught on video pushing Ally Wakefield into a split, KUSA reported. Ally said Williams tore one of her ligaments and leg muscles during the exercise, which is known as "breaking."
The 24-second video clip shows Ally screaming as three teammates hold her down and Williams pushes on her back. The news station said its received videos of a total of eight different cheerleaders being pushed into splits. All of the videos were reportedly filmed in June.
Ally said the pain was unbearable.
"It was tearing my ligament and my muscle at the same time," she told KUSA. "He was pushing down on the back of my right leg. He was pushing like with his other knee on my back to try to keep my posture straight."
Kirsten Wakefield, Ally's mother, sent an email to the assistant principal on June 15 with the video attached. She wrote that her daughter suffered leg injuries as a result of what happened in the clip.
“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 read, in part.
Principal Andy Mendelsberg, assistant principal Lisa Portert, assistant cheer coach Mariah Cladis and school district deputy general counsel Michael Huckman have all been placed on administrative leave while police investigate the video.
Denver Public Schools superintendent Tom Boasberg has issued a statement. The statement read in part:
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.
It was later revealed that Williams was previously fired from Boulder High in 2016 for a similar incident. A parent complained after he started using his "breaking" technique there.
Williams told the Denver Post the video was taken out of context.
"You can definitely say that what was in the video could be seen in a different light," he told the Denver Post. "I would love to tell my story, but I can't say anything else at this time."