Some parents of East High cheerleaders who quit over ‘forced splits' say superintendent didn't call

UPDATE: By Friday night, all parents said they had received some form of communication from DPS.

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East High School cheerleading parents want to know what kind of vetting process the school or district used to hire cheerleading coach Ozell Williams.

Williams was placed on leave on Wednesday, along with East High principal Andy Mendelsberg, athletic director Lisa Porter, assistant cheer coach Mariah Cladis and DPS Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman.

The five were put on leave after Denver Police started investigating a tip about cheerleaders being put into a forced splits technique.

RELATED: Videos show East High cheerleaders repeatedly forced into splits, police investigating GRAPHIC

RELATED: East High coach let go from another job over forced splits

The day before the investigation started, 9Wants To Know submitted an open records request with Denver Public Schools regarding cell phone videos that showed cheerleaders being forced into the splits.

One of the videos, which were provided anonymously to 9Wants To Know, was sent by a parent to Porter in an email on June 15.

Denver Police did not get involved until this week.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg, through his spokesman, declined 9NEWS' request for an interview on Thursday. Thursday night, Boasberg released a statement for the second straight night. In that statement, he wrote:

"Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova and I also personally called the parents of every member of the East cheer team to offer support and answer their questions."

On Friday, 9Wants To Know met with the three parents who helped break the story on Wednesday.

RELATED: In new statement, superintendent says DPS athletic staff notified 'forced splits' aren't allowed

"As this came out last night, had you heard from either the Superintendent of the Deputy Superintendent?" asked 9News reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"No," said former East High School cheer parent Jenney Rockman.

"No," said former East High School cheer parent Cheri Nickolay.

"No," said former East High School cheer parent Kirsten Wakefield.

About 30 minutes before our Friday interview, Nickolay did get a phone call.

"I received a phone call as I was driving here today," said Nickolay. "He wanted to make sure that my family, and I, felt like our needs were being addressed in this situation, and wanted to know that we could go to the school or anyone that we needed to, with his support, and that they were concerned about our well-being and my daughter's well-being."

Rockman and Wakefield told us they were still in the dark as of early Friday afternoon.

"Went through my phone, double checked my text messages, my voicemails and emails, and there was nothing from either him or any of the staff members," said Wakefield.

"That may be the rationale, that because I pulled my daughter off the team, that I am no longer a cheer parent, however, I really feel insulted by that because the only reason that my daughter is not on the team is because of what happened with this coach. I feel like we definitely should have been on the list," said Rockman.

Since our exclusive investigation on Wednesday, 9Wants To Know also discovered that Williams was let go from a different school district for using the same technique.

Boulder Valley School District confirmed that Williams was a cheerleading consultant with Boulder High School in 2015 and 2016.

He worked on choreography and tumbling.

In June 2016, a parent of a Boulder High cheerleader wrote the coach asking, "if it was normal for Ozell to break them so quick."

The term "breaking" refers to the same forced splits technique.

The coach eased the mom's concern in a reply, saying, "He stretches them out but it does not harm them in any way…they are never required to do anything that they are uncomfortable with."

However, the district said that a coach saw the technique being used days later, leading to Williams being dismissed.

"When I saw that this had happened last year in Boulder, the first thing that I thought of is if somebody would have made this public, if somebody would have called this out back then, none of us would be here right now," said Rockman.

"If you guys were able to uncover this about him, I would think someone else should have been able to uncover the same information, before they were allowed to hire him and put him in charge of our teenage daughters," said Nickolay.

 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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