A high school in Denver, Colorado, is being investigated after video evidence surfaced of a young cheerleader crying in pain while being pushed into the splits, The Washington Post reports.
In the video (which many may find disturbing to watch) a young girl, reported to be a 13-year-old incoming freshman at East High School, screams over and over "please stop" while it appears that the coach and teammates continue to force her into the split position. Other videos have surface of other girls on the team being pressed into the same painful position.
The coach in question, who is now on required leave after the incident, is Ozell Williams. Lnown for his appearance on "America's Got Talent" in 2015 and tumbling across the field at Broncos and CU-Boulder games, The Washington Post also notes that he was removed from Boulder High School for doing the same "breaking" technique—AKA forcing young girls into horrible uncomfortable and dangerous positions.
The videos were sent to KUSA News, an NBC affiliate in Denver, who originally broke the story and prompted the investigation by the Denver Police Department this past week. However, the parents of one student involved, Ally Wakefield, said they sent the school the videos and spoke out back in June.
This video of a teen crying as she's forced to do a split by her cheerleading coach has sparked a police investigation pic.twitter.com/cxLs9HTCcy
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) August 24, 2017
KUSA published an email addressed to the East High School Athletic Director, Lisa Porter, on June 15 where Wakefield's parents alleged their daughter was injured during the "forced splits."
“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," the email read. "This is how Ally injured her leg."
Based on his Instagram account, Williams is still maintaining an active online presence as a coach and promoting his camps and clinics. In a post from two days ago, he wrote: "Just got through teaching a tumbling/stunting camp out at one of our family gyms in California last weekend. It was awesome. Excited to bring some stuff back to our athletes @mht5280. We love sharing our gifts and making others smile, especially the youth. Thank you @goldstarallstars. For camp and clinic info, please contact us!!"
Kimberly Archie of the National Cheer Safety Foundation condemned the practice as "child abuse" after watching the video.
"It's okay to be competitive, it's not okay for something like this. This is child abuse. This is child maltreatment. It's not okay. The coach should have known it wasn't okay, and the kids should have felt comfortable enough to say, 'Hey stop! What are you doing? Why are you doing this our teammate?'"Archie told KUSA. "And for the school district? Do nothing until journalists get involved? That’s even more egregious than the act itself.”