DENVER (CBS4)– Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg says that the district was “wrong not to have acted in June” when some East High School employees learned of forced splits.
The coach, Ozell Williams, and four other school employees were placed on leave while the Denver Public School District conducts as investigation alongside Denver police.
On Friday evening during a news conference, Boasberg said that Williams was no longer with DPS.
He also provided a timeline about what happened after it was reported. He said in mid-June a parent contacted the athletic the athletic director about what had happened at a cheer camp and included video of the incident. The next day the principal, assistant principal and athletic director met with the parent and her daughter.
“At that meeting the school leadership believed they had addressed the parent’s and student’s concerns. It’s now clear they had not,” said Boasberg.
Williams worked in multiple gyms throughout the Denver metro area. Most recently, he worked at Reunion Recreation Center, as a tumbling coach for children.
Rec center management said that as of Thursday, Williams is no longer employed there.
There is no brick and mortar building for the business, Mile High Tumblers 5280, run by Williams, parents said. His website advertises Williams as a power-tumbling expert.
Industry professionals told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia that the technique Williams was seen using in the video is known as “power stretching.”
East High freshman Ally Wakefield, 13, cried out in pain and said “stop” over and over but Williams could be seen continuing to force her down in the extended splits position while others held her in place.
“She’s torn her muscle tissues, her ligaments, and pulled a hamstring,” said Ally’s mother Kirsten Wakefield, of her daughter’s injuries.
Kirsten met with police as child abuse investigators worked the case.
“My daughter told me the coach told all of the girls, ‘Do not share this video with anyone. Keep this video just between us,'” Kirsten said.
Boasberg said the district has hired a law firm to perform an independent investigation to find out who knew what and when. He said until that investigation is over, the five East High employees who have been placed on leave, including the principal and athletic director, won’t be back at school.
“What happened was wrong. Under no circumstances should a young person be in a situation where they’re suffering physical or emotional harm,” said Boasberg.
Boasberg also said that East High School counselors worked with cheerleaders Friday morning to address their concerns.