Female student says tennis coach touched her inappropriately

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THORNTON, Colo. -- A mother whose daughter attends Thornton High School said her daughter's tennis coach touched her inappropriately during practice in March.

Lupe said her 16-year-old daughter called her to say her male coach smacked her on the butt after a good play during practice.

"He held onto my hand and then he spanked me with his left hand," the girl said.

To protect the minor, we're not revealing her identity. But she wanted to speak up.

It's a gesture often seen among male coaches and players in professional sports. But the student said she felt very uneasy about it.

"[I felt] very uncomfortable," she said. "Violated, like my trust in playing anymore is gone. I walked away in shock. I didn't know what to do."

After talking with her teammates, she decided to tell her mom.

"Just by the tone of her voice, I knew something was wrong," Lupe said.

Lupe said the school resource officer didn't seem to take it seriously.

"He said, 'Well you know this is probably something that guys do, I don't think this is serious right?'" she said. "As adults, male or female, there should be no sexual contact whatsoever."

So Lupe and her daughter filed a police report. According to the report, the coach admitted to police that the incident happened and was inappropriate. The report states he said "It was in no way sexual in nature."

Still, child psychologist Sheryl Gonzales Ziegler finds it concerning.

"Her gut told her it didn't feel right," Ziegler said. "That's really all that matters. It crosses gender barriers. Even if a male athlete had said, 'My coach, you know, slapped me in a way or did something in a locker room that didn't feel right,' that still would be just as important as this matter."

At the very least, Ziegler said "He really would need some training around boundaries and how to interact with adolescents."

Lupe and her daughter hoped sharing the incident would spark a discussion about what's appropriate and what's not, regardless of gender.

"I think that's something that the school district does need to address, with all coaches," Lupe said. "And letting them know that it's very inappropriate and not to do [it]."

FOX31 Denver is not naming the coach involved in the incident because no charges were filed.

The Adams12 School District said "appropriate steps" were taken and the man was removed as a volunteer tennis coach as it investigated the incident.

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