Man at center of controversy involving videos showing high school cheerleaders forced into splits once worked in Greeley
DENVER — The man who was among the cheerleading coaches and school administrators in a Colorado district placed on leave amid a series of videos showing high school cheerleaders screaming in pain while being pushed into splits during practice once worked at a Greeley dance studio.
Demi Kupfner, who owns Colorado Eclipse, 6268 10th St. Unit D in Greeley, told Denver TV station FOX31 that Ozell Williams worked for her briefly in 2014.
Williams is the cheer coach at Denver’s East High School, where videos show eight cheerleaders repeatedly being pushed into splits while their arms are held up by teammates, KUSA-TV reported Thursday. Police have opened an investigation.
In one video, a girl repeatedly asks her coach to “please stop.” The station says the videos were shot on the phones of two team members and were sent anonymously to the station.
“The reason Ozell is not working for me is a situation between Ozell and myself,” she said. “We just had different outlooks on a few things, and it was just not meant to be.”
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 written 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.”
The East High School principal, an assistant principal, the cheer coach, an assistant cheer coach and a district lawyer were placed on leave during the investigation, Boasberg said.
The Denver Police Department said child-abuse detectives were investigating.
Jim Lord, director of the Cheerleading Coaches and Administration Association, told the station the videos show practices that are outdated and damaging.
Lord said forcing athletes into painful stretching used to happen decades ago. But he said coaches are now required to learn safe stretching practices.
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