Top administrators out at controversial school where cheerleaders were forced into splits

Five school officials at East High School were placed on administrative leave Wednesday after the Denver public schools superintendent was made aware of video showing cheerleaders being forced into splits.

Last August a disturbing video taken at a Denver high school began spreading online and across media channels. In it, viewers can see high school cheerleaders being forced to perform splits, despite cries of pain and agony.

People were shocked when this news came to light and the coach was fired soon after. But East High School parents and community naturally wanted answers — how could this have been allowed to happen to their children and students? Why wasn’t something done about it sooner? In the wake of a report released just this week, two of the school’s top administrators are now both out of jobs.

Andy Mendelsberg, East High School’s principal, and Lisa Porter, the school’s assistant principal and athletic director both left their jobs following a report completed by Davis Graham & Stubbs, a Denver law firm. Mendelsberg retired and Porter resigned. The firm’s investigation found that the two administrators in question knew about the allegations of the cheerleading coach’s behavior for months and did not act swiftly after the release of the video.

Among the investigation’s findings about the fired coach Ozell Williams were that he forced his students to follow him on social media — despite regulations against that practice — and that he forbade the cheer team to discuss the the splits incidents. Williams continues to claim that the videos were taken out of context. “I would love to tell my story,” Williams told the Denver Post. “But I can’t say anything else at this time.”

Ally Wakefield, one of the students seen in the videos, told BuzzFeed that she is undergoing physical therapy after suffering a torn ligament, a ripped muscle and possibly a pulled hamstring due to the abuse.

Despite the findings of the report about how long it took the school administration to act upon parents’ complaints about the coach’s practices, other parents turned out to protest the principal’s retirement. News cameras showed them outside what appear to be Denver school district offices chanting “Andy is an angel.” One parent told Denver 7 News, “I think it’s a shame because Andy Mendelsberg and the staff at East High School have done a phenomenal job of educating our children, protecting our children.”

Mendelsberg wrote a statement that said leaving the school was not an easy decision, but that he believed it was “in the best interest of the students, teachers, my family, and myself personally for me to step down.”

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