Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg has declined 9NEWS' requests for sit-down and phone interviews about a video showing a coach forcing East High School cheerleaders into the splits.
Boasberg did issue a new statement on Thursday evening, however, about 24 hours after the 9Wants to Know team broke the story.
In his statement, Boasberg says he and Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova personally called the cheerleading team parents on Thursday, and they have notified the district's athletic staff that similar training is not acceptable:
His full statement:
“First, I want to thank our community for your concern for the safety and well-being of our students. Please know we are supporting the Denver Police in the investigation of these allegations and we are doing all that we can to support our students and families at East and throughout the district.
We have sent notification to our athletic directors emphasizing that DPS does not allow the use of “forced splits” or any other activity that puts a student’s physical or mental health at risk, or in which a student is forced to perform an exercise beyond the point at which they express their desire to stop. I want to reiterate that this applies not just to athletics, but throughout our school communities.
This morning, counselors at East, with our district support team, worked with all the members of the cheer team — to bring them together as team, to address the students’ concerns, and to emphasize our commitment to their safety and well-being. 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.
We know how deeply concerned our community is about the events that took place. We are reviewing the supports and resources currently in place for both students and educators, and we will propose additional efforts to ensure our school communities are educated about, and empowered to prevent, traumatic situations such as those depicted in the videos of East cheer practice.
We are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all our students, at East High School and throughout Denver Public Schools. We will provide additional information when we can.”
The Board of Education provided their own collective statement on Thursday evening as well, calling the video a a traumatic situation:
“As the elected representatives for Denver Public Schools – and as the moms, dads and family members of DPS students ourselves – we are deeply disturbed by the videos of cheer practices at East High School that came to our attention yesterday. Our district’s Shared Core Values start with Students First, and that means we put our kids’ needs at the forefront of everything we do, with our first and foremost responsibility being our students’ physical and emotional safety and well-being.
We know that in DPS and across the country, young athletes are pushed to perform their very best – but challenging our students should never compromise their health and safety, or their personal consent. DPS does not and will not tolerate athletic or school cultures or practices that place our students in danger.
As a district, we must uphold the vision, structures, and supports for athletic and school cultures that ensure students are healthy, engaged, challenged and safe. We must be accountable for ensuring our students do not feel pressured or coerced into practices that jeopardize their physical or mental health. As a community of educators, we teach our athletes how to challenge themselves and each other with empathy, compassion and respect for a sense of safety and belonging.
Our hearts go out to the students, families, educators and broader community as we all seek to understand what happened. As the investigation continues, our focus must be entirely on our students, families and educators. We are committed to leading a district that is safe and secure for all students. We are reviewing the supports and resources currently in place for students and educators, and what is needed to ensure our school communities are educated about and empowered to prevent traumatic situations such as those depicted in the videos of East cheer practice.”