Closings and delays

Police investigate video that shows high school cheerleaders held down, forced into splits

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**Warning: The video at the bottom of this page is very graphic and may be disturbing**

DENVER, Colo. — Police are investigating allegations that multiple cheerleaders at a Denver high school were forced into split positions and held down by other students and coaches.

Disturbing video shows what happened at a cheer camp back in June.

KUSA reports that the cheer coach, assistant cheer coach, high school principal, assistant principal and deputy general counsel have been placed on leave.

One incoming freshman, KUSA reports, was surrounded by teammates and forced by her cheer coach into an extended split position. Other videos show eight cheerleaders repeatedly being pushed into splits, with their arms held by teammates.

The cheerleaders cry out in pain and beg for the stretching to stop.

The videos were sent anonymously to KUSA. Parents allege at least one of the students was injured due to the practice.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg issued the following statement regarding the situation to KUSA:

“Earlier today, I became aware of an exercise used at cheer practices this summer at East High School. We immediately began taking steps to investigate this issue, and our Department of Safety is supporting Denver Police in this effort. 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. Please know that we will share the results of the investigation as soon as possible. I want to reiterate in no uncertain terms 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. While this investigation is ongoing, we are entirely focused on ensuring our students and staff at East are receiving the supports they need. A senior leader at the school, East Assistant Principal Jason Maclin, will serve as interim principal during this time and we are providing additional counseling for our students and families. 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.”

Read more here.