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East High cheerleading coach under fire for physically forcing splits

The videos show different East High School cheerleaders pushed into the splits, and sometimes the extended splits, while teammates hold their arms and legs, and their coach holds their shoulders, pushing each girl closer to the ground.

Marshall Zelinger, Katie Wilcox, Kevin Vaughan, Nicole Vap

Published: 9/1/2017 1:50:15 PM
Updated: 1:50 PM MDT September 1, 2017

Editor’s note: the videos included in this story are difficult to watch and may not be suitable for all viewers.

The East High School cheerleading coach under fire for physically forcing girls to do the splits was dismissed from a similar position at Boulder High in 2016 for doing the same thing, 9Wants to Know has learned.

Ozell Williams, who is on leave from East in the wake of questions raised by 9NEWS, was terminated as a cheerleading consultant at Boulder High in 2016 following a parent’s complaint about “breaking” and an incident in which a coach saw him force a girl to do the splits.
Forcing someone to do the splits is sometimes referred to as “breaking.”

Two more videos aired by 9NEWS Thursday show the same thing -- teenage girls crying and screaming in agony and begging Williams to stop.

The story led Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg to place Williams, East High Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Athletic Director Lisa Porter, assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and the district’s Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman on leave.

Thursday afternoon, Boulder High Principal James A. Hill sent a note home to parents, saying he was “horrified” by what he saw in the 9NEWS reports and acknowledging that Williams “unfortunately, had connections to our cheerleading squad.”

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