Shocking footage showing teenagers on a Colorado cheerleading squad being forced to perform painful splits is going viral (video below).
Five employees from East High School in Denver have been placed on administrative leave after the videos surfaced, reports the New York Post.
Ally Wakefield, 13, is seen in one of the videos being forcibly held down by three teammates and cheerleading coach Ozell Williams as Wakefield screams: "Please stop, please stop!"
Denver police are investigating after the videos were anonymously sent to authorities. Police reportedly received eight videos with "similar screams of pain" from girls on the team.
Williams is one of the school employees placed on leave, along with assistant cheerleading coach Mariah Cladis, Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Assistant Principal Lisa Porter, and a Denver Public Schools attorney, Michael Hickman.
In an Aug. 23 message to families at East High, Superintendent Tom Boasberg attempted to reassure parents:
Please know that the safety of your children is our number one priority. As some of you may know, we have become aware of an exercise used at cheer practices this summer. Earlier today, Denver Police and DPS Safety began an investigation into the concerns associated with this exercise ...
[Leaves of absence are] 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 ...
While the investigation is ongoing, we are extremely limited in what we are able to share or discuss. Once the investigation is concluded, we will be able to address concerns and questions. Finally, we want to reiterate 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," Boasberg added, adding that counseling support would be available for students as they returned to classes.
Ally's father, Eric Wakefield, said his daughter has been cyberbullied by other students after the video went viral. He said Williams had threatened to kick anyone who leaked footage of the team's practices off of the team.
"My number one priority is my daughter's health," said Eric, who added he may consider legal action against the school.
The teen's mother, Kirsten Wakefield, emailed Porter in June about the video, saying that Ally had injured her leg because of the team's practices.
"My husband and I would like to know what the administration is going to do about my daughter's injury and how it happened," wrote Kirsten in the email.