More than 60 people attend private meeting in support of tennis coach accused of child abuse

Community members are rallying around the Park City High School girl’s tennis coach accused of child abuse after allegedly fending off a student attack.

Faith Petersen is the mother of a senior who played tennis on the Park City High School Girls Tennis Team for four years. Petersen told KPCW that she attended an event on Tuesday that drew about 60 people who she said sympathized with coach Lani Wilcox and helped raise money for her legal defense. As of this report, a GoFundMe effort has raised over $16,000.

Petersen said Wilcox, accused of child abuse by one of the team members, has been a part of the Park City tennis community for a long time.

“Lani is an important part of the tennis community, from club players to high school tennis teams,” said Petersen. “The girls love her – they have the utmost respect for her. None of these girls would ever think of hitting, I mean, hitting a coach. This meeting was about unity, about showing Lani that we’re here to support her. We raised a lot of money. on GoFundMe for attorney fees because people see 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 assistant coach Brad Smith, kicking him in the groin as he tried to intervene. Petersen said his daughter and others witnessed the event.

“She nailed Lani, and there were other coaches that I know were at MARC when that happened,” Petersen said. “They were like in my 20s teaching kids, I’ve never seen this kind of attack on a coach, incredibly out of control.”

The Summit County Attorney’s Office has charged Wilcox with one count of child abuse, a felony of the third degree. The student allegedly slapped Wilcox across the face during an argument over the student’s position on the team. After that, Wilcox reportedly grabbed the student by the neck, strangled her, and then took her cell phone. Carrying the cell phone is a separate misdemeanor charge. Utah law prohibits the use of communication devices when someone is calling emergency services.

Petersen told KPCW that his daughter said that while Wilcox was trying to restrain the student, the coach fell to the ground and suffered a concussion. She said people who know Wilcox and have seen the event are shocked by the child abuse allegations brought against her.

“A criminal charge of child abuse?” said Petersen. Are you kidding me? It’s just insane. It’s really insane.”

Petersen said the school and Park City police interviewed his 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 blow to the face for herself,” Petersen said. “But none of that has been addressed, but I think it’s a social thing. But sooner or later, we won’t have coaches. We won’t have teachers. We won’t have anyone who wants to deal with these kids properly.”

Due to the ongoing investigation, the Summit County Attorney’s Office cannot comment on the case.

If anyone witnessed the incident firsthand and wishes to file a statement, they should contact the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.

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