Denver police have confirmed they're investigating the dramatic video of a teenage cheerleader being forced to do the splits.
The video shows freshman East High School student Ally Wakefield at a cheer practice in June, when she was pushed into the stretch by other students and a coach. In the video, you can hear Wakefield shouting "Please, stop!" multiple times.
The 13-year-old from Denver, Colorado says she wasn't expecting to do elevated splits that day, or to be forced to do the exercise by her coaches, something her parents say was "not right."
“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 tissue in her body,” Wakefield's mother Kirsten told a local news station. “I don’t understand why this man is still employed there.”
In a letter from Wakefield's parents to the school's athletic director, they say a doctor examined the cheerleader after practice and found she tore muscle tissue, ligaments and a hamstring during the exercise, forcing her to sit out during practice for weeks.
Since the incident came to light last week, more parents have been speaking out about the intense, often daily practices that their children were asked to attend, and sharing videos of their daughters being forced to do the same stretch. Now, Denver police are investigating the videos as a potential child abuse case.
Meanwhile, the coach shown in the videos says there's 2 sides to this story.
The Denver Public School Board has put six officials on leave because of the video, and fired cheer coach Ozell Williams, who pushed Wakefield down in the video.
“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,” superintendent Tom Boasberg said in a statement.
But Williams, who was fired from a past job as a cheerleading consultant for similar complaints, defends his actions. "You can definitely say that what was in the video could be seen in a different light," Williams told the Denver Post. "I would love to tell my story, but I can't say anything else at this time."
Meanwhile, the Denver Police Department has confirmed their child abuse detectives are looking into the videos after receiving anonymous tips, but won't offer any more details since the investigation is still open.
Some parents say that the intense stretching technique called "breaking" shown in the videos are just part of competitive cheerleading, but the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators disagrees.
In a statement, the group said they don't "condone the coach's actions, and rejects them to the fullest extent."
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