She can be heard asking the coach and fellow cheerleaders to stop
A high school cheerleading coach and several administrators are under investigation after video surfaced of a cheerleader being held down in a split position by a coach and her teammates while crying out in pain, begging them to stop.
The disturbing footage, released last night by NBC affiliate 9 News, shows 13-year-old Ally Wakefield, an incoming freshman at Denver, Colorado’s East High School, being repeatedly forced into doing a split despite her cries that she didn’t want to.
9 News reports that Denver Police are now investigating the incident while East High administrators Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Assistant Principal Lisa Porter, Cheer Coach Ozell Williams, Assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and DPS Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman have all been placed on leave.
The video shows Williams, who was in his first year as coach before being put on leave, holding Wakefield down by her shoulders while she cries out in pain several times. The same technique was reportedly used with eight other cheerleaders, but this video was the only one released by the news station.
The footage was shot on a cell phone camera by two cheer team members and sent to 9 News anonymously this month. But East High school administrators have known about at least one of the videos since June.
“It was tearing my ligament and my muscle at the same time,” Wakefield tells News 9. “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.”
“This is a grown man pushing my 13-year-old girl so hard against her will while she’s crying and screaming for him to stop that he’s ripping tissues in her body,” says her mother, Kirsten Wakefield.
“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,” writes Ally’s mother, in a June 15th email to 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.”
In an August 23rd statement, Denver Police say they have child abuse detectives investigating and that it’s an open case with no further details provided.
The school released a statement yesterday as well, with Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg confirming that the administrators and coaches were on leave as well as a strong condemnation of what was seen in the 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,” he says. He also notes that the administrators being on leave is “standard practice” and doesn’t mean their actions have been judged yet by the school or police.
Parents have allegedly been complaining about the incidents to the school all summer and 9 News is in the process of obtaining records related to those complaints.
Whether this is a usual technique to train someone how to do a split or not, the issue is Ally Wakefield repeatedly asking everyone involved to stop as they continued to hold her down. It’s upsetting as parents to think of our children being physically forced to do anything against their will, let alone something that causes them injury.