Cheerleading coach Ozell Williams is at the center for a firestorm that erupted Wednesday after 9NEWS reported on his practices and aired one of eight videos obtained by 9Wants to Know that show girls in agony as he shoved them to the ground.
Two more videos aired by 9NEWS Thursday show the same thing — teenage girls crying and screaming in agony and begging Williams to stop.
The story led Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg to place Williams, East High Principal Andy Mendelsberg, Athletic Director Lisa Porter, assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and the district’s Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman on leave.
Thursday afternoon, Boulder High Principal James A. Hill sent a note home to parents, saying he was “horrified” by what he saw in the 9NEWS reports and acknowledging that Williams “unfortunately, had connections to our cheerleading squad.”
Williams dismissed from similar position before
The East High School cheerleading coach under fire for physically forcing girls to do the splits was dismissed from a similar position at Boulder (Colo.) High in 2016 for doing the same thing, 9Wants to Know has learned.
Williams, who is on leave from East in the wake of questions raised by 9NEWS, was terminated as a cheerleading consultant at Boulder High in 2016 following a parent’s complaint about “breaking” and an incident in which a coach saw him force a girl to do the splits.
Forcing someone to do the splits is sometimes referred to as “breaking.”
Williams was a paid consultant for Boulder’s cheerleading team in 2015 and 2016.
But after a parent raised concerns, the team’s coach let Williams go.
9Wants to Know also learned that the owner of a gym in Brighton considered teaming up with Williams, but changed her mind after a week of watching him work with kids in her program.
“They would go to do things and if they would stop, like they would go into a tumbling pass and they would stop, and he would be like, ‘I’m going to punch you in the face if you don’t do it next time,’” Julie Ledbetter said. “… You don’t tell kids you’re going to punch them in the face if they can’t pull the skill.”
Ledbetter said that she never saw any girls forced to do the splits but she also said she never left her athletes alone with Williams.