More than 60 people attend private gathering showing support for tennis coach charged with child abuse
Community members are rallying around the Park City High School girl's tennis coach accused of child abuse after allegedly defending herself from a student's attack.
Faith Petersen is the mother of a senior who has played tennis on the Park City High School Girls tennis team for four years. Petersen told KPCW she attended an event on Tuesday which drew about 60 people who she said showed up to stand in solidarity with Coach Lani Wilcox and to help raise money for her legal defense. As of this report, a GoFundMe effort has raised over $16,000.
Petersen said Wilcox, charged with child abuse of one of the team members, has been a part of Park City's tennis community for a long time.
"Lani is an important part of the tennis community whether it be club players to high school tennis team," Petersen said. "The girls love her -- have the utmost respect for her. None of those girls would ever even think about hitting, I mean, hitting a coach. That meeting was about unity, about showing Lani that we're here to support her. We have raised a lot of money on a GoFundMe for legal fees because people see the injustice."
Petersen said a 16-year-old team member attacked Wilcox because she was unhappy with her coaching decisions. According to Petersen, the student also attacked the assistant coach, Brad Smith, kicking him in the groin as he tried to intervene. Petersen said her daughter and others witnessed the event.
"She absolutely clocked Lani, and there were other coaches that I know that were at the MARC when this happened," Petersen said. "They were like in my 20 years of teaching kids, I've never ever seen that kind of assault on a coach, just incredibly out of control."
The Summit County Attorney's Office charged Wilcox with one count of child abuse, a third-degree felony. The student allegedly slapped Wilcox in the face during an argument over the student's position on the team. After that, Wilcox reportedly grabbed the student by the neck, put her in a choke hold, and then took her cell phone. Taking the cell phone is a separate misdemeanor charge. Utah law prohibits taking communication devices when someone is calling for emergency services.
Petersen told KPCW that her daughter said that while Wilcox was trying to restrain the student, the coach fell to the ground and sustained a concussion. She said people who know Wilcox and saw the event are stunned by the child abuse charges filed against her.
"A criminal child abuse charge?" Petersen said. Are you kidding me? It's just insane. It's really insane."
Petersen said the high school and Park City Police interviewed her daughter during school hours this week. According to Petersen, some parents are concerned about the incident and the potential safety of their students.
"The girl was the instigator. Lani was trying to grab her hands to calm her down, fearing for other kids, another hit to the face for herself," Petersen said. "But none of this has been addressed, but I just think that it's a societal thing. But sooner or later, we're not going to have coaches. We're not going to have teachers. We're not going to have anybody that wants to deal with these entitled children."
Due to the ongoing investigation, the Summit County Attorney's Office cannot comment on the case.
If anyone witnessed the incident firsthand and wants to submit a statement, they should contact the Summit County Sheriff's Office.