There were no spirit fingers at this cheerleading practice. Police have launched an investigation after a video surfaced of a high school cheerleader being forced to perform a painful split.
The teen, who has since been identified as Ally Wakefield, 13, can be seen being pinned down by four individuals, including her coach Ozell Williams, and screaming out in pain. Despite her repeatedly asking them to "please stop," her legs were unnaturally stretched in opposite directions and she was unable to break the position.
Denver Public Schools announced that five employees have been suspended after police launched the child abuse investigation. Along with the cheer coach, the East High principal, assistant principal. assistant cheer coach and the school system's deputy general counsel were placed on leave.
According to CNN, Ally injured muscles and ligaments in her groin area as well as her hamstring. "My daughter is begging them to stop," Ally's mom Kristen told a CNN affiliate. "It's not right." She also claimed that the coach threatened to cut girls from the team if they didn't do the split. After bringing the alleged abuse to the attention of school employees and being ignored, Kristen decided to leak the footage to local media.
The coach in question has denied the allegations and believes the video is being taken out of context. "You can definitely say that what was in the video could be seen in a different light," Ozell told the Denver Post. "I would love to tell my story, but I can't say anything else at this time."
Meanwhile, the USA Cheer National Safety Council has weighed in after viewing the distressing video. "The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) does not condone the coach's actions, and rejects them to the fullest extent," the statement read. "Stretching should never be taken to the level of causing pain. Of even more concern is failure to act when it is clear that a cheerleader is in extreme pain and begging to stop."