Video shows Denver cheerleaders physically forced into splits; staff on administrative leave

DENVER – Five school officials at East High School in Denver were placed on administrative leave Wednesday after the Denver Public Schools Superintendent was made aware of distressing video showing cheerleaders being forced into splits over the summer. 

East High Principal Andy Mendelsberg, East High Assistant Principal Lisa Portert, East Cheer Coach Ozell Williams, East Assistant Cheer coach Mariah Cladis and DPS Deputy General Counsel Michael Huckman were all placed on leave so the school and Denver Police could perform a thorough investigation of the video.

“We absolutely prohibit any practices that place our students’ physical and mental health in jeopardy,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg in a statement sent to Denver-based KMGH. “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.”

Boasberg also said East Assistant Principal Jason Maclin will serve as interim principal during the investigation, which includes the school district’s Department of Safety and the Denver Police Department.

“With regards to certain videos, I cannot state strongly enough – as the superintendent of the school district and as the father of two high school-aged daughters -- that the images and actions depicted are extremely distressing and absolutely contrary to our core values as a public school community,” Boasber said.

NOTE: The video below is graphic and may be difficult to watch.

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