Cheerleaders probe after videos show screaming schoolgirls forced into splits
Coaches and school chiefs in Colorado have been suspended amid a police child abuse investigation, following "extremely distressing" videos that show high school cheerleaders screaming in pain while being pushed into splits during practice.
The videos show eight cheerleaders at Denver's East High School repeatedly being pushed into splits while their arms are held by teammates, KUSA-TV said.
In one video, a girl repeatedly asks her coach to "please stop".
KUSA-TV said the videos, shot on the phones of two team members, were sent anonymously to the station.
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 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, Mr Boasberg said.
Denver Police Department said child abuse detectives were investigating.
Jim Lord, director of the Cheerleading Coaches and Administration Association, told KUSA-TV the videos showed practices that were outdated and damaging.
He said forcing athletes into painful stretching used to happen decades ago but coaches were now required to learn safe practices.