A high-school coach in Denver, Colorado has been fired after video emerged of him pushing a 13-year-old cheerleader down into splits while she screamed for him to stop.
Ally Wakefield said new East High coach Ozell Williams tore one of her ligaments and one of her leg muscles during the exercise, which is known as ‘breaking’.
Williams, who has now been removed from his position, told the Denver Post that the video – in whch she’s seen screaming ‘Please stop!’ was ‘taken out of context.’
But now it has emerged that he was fired from another school position last year for doing the exact same thing – and allegedly told girls at another of his classes he would ‘punch them in the face’ if they messed up.
Video that emerged Thursday shows Ally Wakefield, 13, screaming as East High School coach Ozell Williams (top) and other girls push her into the splits – a practice known as ‘breaking’
Williams (pictured) has been fired from East High, and was dropped by Boulder High last year for the same reason. A local gym owner also claimed he threatened to hit girls he was coaching
The shocking 24-second clip, which was sent to KUSA, shows Wakefield screaming as three teammates hold her down and Williams pushes on her back.
The channel said it received videos of a total of eight cheerleaders repeatedly being pushed into splits, all of which were filmed during the first week of cheer camp in June.
This does not appear to be a new situation for Williams, who was fired from Boulder High in 2016 for ‘breaking’ other girls, KUSA reported.
Gym owner Julie Ledbetter said she and Williams (pictured at the 2012 World Gymnastics Championship) almost teamed up until she saw him tell a girl ‘I’m going to punch you in the face if you don’t do it next time’
On Thursday afternoon, Boulder High Principal James A Hill sent a note to parents saying that Williams ‘unfortunately, had connections to our cheerleading squad.’
That connection was a paid consultancy gig from 2015-2016 – one that only ended when a parent complained after he began using his ‘breaking’ technique there.
And the owner of a gym in Brighton said that she had decided not to team up with Williams, who also founded athlete coaching business Mile High Tumblers 5280, after he displayed some worrying behavior.
‘They would go to do things and if they would stop, like they would go into a tumbling pass and they would stop, and he would be like, “I’m going to punch you in the face if you don’t do it next time,”‘ Julie Ledbetter told KUSA.
She added: ‘You don’t tell kids you’re going to punch them in the face if they can’t pull the skill.’
Ledbetter told the channel she didn’t see any other girls being made to do the splits, but also said she didn’t leave her students alone with Williams.
When contacted by the Denver Post, Williams said the video was being seen out of context, but declined to say what that context might be.
Williams claims that the video ‘could be seen in a different light’ but would not explain what context might account for the disturbing imagery
‘You can definitely say that what was in the video could be seen in a different light,’ he said.
‘He was pushing down on the back of my right leg. He was pushing like with his other knee on my back to try to keep my posture straight,’ Wakefield (pictured) said
‘I would love to tell my story, but I can’t say anything else at this time.’
In the wake of the video’s release, East High placed four members of staff on administrative leave while the school and police investigate the footage.
They are Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Lisa Portert, an assistant principal; Mariah Cladis, assistant cheer coach; and Michael Huckman, school district deputy general counsel.
Williams was also placed on administrative leave prior to being fired. He’s also stopped teaching tumbling until the matter is resolved.
Earlier, Wakefield told KUSA that the pain was unbearable.
‘It was tearing my ligament and my muscle at the same time,’ she said.
‘He was pushing down on the back of my right leg. He was pushing like with his other knee on my back to try to keep my posture straight.’
Wakefield’s mother, Kirsten Wakefield, sent an email to the assistant principal on June 15, attaching a video and writing that her daughter injured her leg as a result of what happened on tape.
Wakefield (pictured) is one of eight cheerleaders who said they were pushed down into the painful position during the July camp at East High
Wakefield’s mother, Kirsten (right), sent an email to the assistant principal on June 15, attaching a video; an investigation wasn’t launched until August
‘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 tissues in her body,’ she told KUSA.
In another video, a second, unidentified girl, is seen screaming as she is held down and Williams tells her to stay still.
‘Please help me,’ she wails. ‘Help me up. Help me up. Help me up.’
‘You stay there,’ Williams tells her.
Denver Public Schools superintendent Tom Boasberg called the videos ‘extremely distressing.’
‘We absolutely prohibit any practices that place our students’ physical and mental health in jeopardy,’ Boasberg said in a statement.
‘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.’
Five employees, including Williams, have been placed on administrative leave while a police investigation goes underway (pictured, East High School)