‘Please stop’: Video shows US school cheerleader forced to do leg splits as she screams in pain
In the video of the incident, a 13-year-old girl can be seen screaming in pain and saying “Please help, please stop” repeatedly as the coach and teammates pinned her legs down in the gymworld Updated: Aug 25, 2017 17:02 IST
A cheerleading coach and four school officials in Denver were asked to go on leave after police received an anonymous tip on Wednesday about students being forced to do leg splits. Child abuse detectives are probing the case, The Washington Post reported.
In a video of the incident with TV station KUSA, Ally Wakefield (13) can be seen screaming in pain and saying “Please help, please stop” repeatedly as the coach pushes her back and teammates hold her legs at the gym. KUSA said it had received 8 similar videos from June of cheerleaders wailing in pain.
The practice session was organised by the new cheer coach of East High School Ozell Williams, who is also a former Olympic athlete, a Guinness world record holder and a participant of the reality show ‘America’s Got Talent’.
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Eric Wakefield, Ally’s father, said that he’s been unable to sleep since the videos surfaced and claimed his daughter was being bullied by classmates and teammates. He alleged the coach was threatening to kick anyone off the cheerleading team if there any information about the team’s practices was leaked. Her mother Kirsten Wakefield had emailed the school district on June 15, asking authorities what action would be taken, according to US media reports.
Ally quit the team after the incident.
Williams, who is the founder of Mile High Tumblers, told the Denver Post the video was “taken out of context”.
Denver High Schools released a statement, clarifying that the East High School does not permit forced exercises for any sports or activities. “We absolutely prohibit any practices that place our students’ physical and mental health in jeopardy,” it read.
“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... the images and actions depicted are extremely distressing and absolutely contrary to our core values as a public school community.”
KUSA, however, said officials took action after it approached the school in June.
“This is an open case,” a Denver Police official said in an email to the Post.
The school principal and the assistant cheer coach are among those sent on leave as the investigation continues. Parents of East High students have reacted to the video demanding strict action, with a mother claiming she made her daughter quit the team.
“That made me sick to my stomach,” a student’s mother was quoted as saying. “I don’t know how you could justify that.”
First Published: Aug 25, 2017 17:02 IST