Denver Police Investigate Cheer Coaches at East High

Courtney Cameron Headshot

Denver Police launched an investigation Wednesday into coaching practices at East High School after an anonymous video was sent in to local news station 9Wants to Know.

The video, shot by two members of the squad on their cell phones, shows incoming freshman Ally Wakefield being pushed into a splits position while teammates held their arms and legs.

The footage was taken during the first week of cheer camp in June and is said to contain footage of eight other girls undergoing the same treatment.

School administrators were alerted to concerns over the footage in June, when Wakefield’s mother Kirsten sent an enraged email to East High athletic director Lisa Porter.

 “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 letter reads.

Wakefield continues, “This is how Ally injured her leg … My husband and I would like to know what the administration is going to do about my daughter's injury and how it happened.”

Another parent, Cheri Nickolay, told 9Wants to Know, “I don’t understand why that’s allowed.” Her daughter Anna, who quit the cheer team, does not appear in any of the videos.

In an official statement, Denver Public Schools superintendent Tom Boasberg said, “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.”

He went on to say, “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.”

{module Forced Splits Poll}

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