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

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Posted at 8:12 AM, Aug 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-24 15:01:20-04

DENVER - Five school officials at a Denver-area high school were placed on administrative leave after the Denver Public Schools Superintendent was made aware of distressing video showing cheerleaders being forced into splits over the summer.

East High School 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 the Denver Police Department 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 10News' Scripps sister station Denver7. "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 High 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.

WARNING: VIDEO MAY BE DISTURBING TO SOME VIEWERS:

"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," Boasberg said.

Denver police released the following statement about the video:

"On August 23, 2017, the Denver Police Department received anonymous information regarding the incidents involving a cheerleader coach at East High School, and Denver Police child abuse detectives immediately began an investigation. This is an open case, therefore no additional details or videos will be provided at this time."