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Provo family who accused coach of bullying unhappy with school district review

Posted at 5:40 PM, Jul 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-24 19:34:27-04

PROVO, Utah — She acknowledges she didn’t play a good game, but a Timpview High School volleyball player says the opposing coach went too far when he made her the focus of his team’s strategy.

“I wasn’t doing that well that game,” the teen told FOX 13, “and I guess he decided to pick on that and say that I couldn’t pass.

“And then, as the game went on, he said that I couldn’t hit and there was no need to block me.”

The condescending remarks, relayed by the Mountain View High School coach as instruction to his players, continued, said the teen. FOX 13 agreed not to identify the student because she’s still in high school.

Nine months later, the family has a copy of the Alpine School District’s report on the episode, but they aren’t satisfied. The administrator who wrote the report didn’t speak to the teen or her parents.

The match was held Oct. 26 at Mountain View. The teen’s parents, Tolai and Nimo Leauanae, couldn’t hear what the Mountain View coach was yelling, but knew something was wrong when their daughter began yelling back at him.

“Everything’s fair game in the huddle,” Tolai Leauanae said, acknowledging targeting an opponent’s vulnerability is how sports are played. But he says a youth coach shouldn’t belittle a teen in front of a crowd.

“He was obviously saying it loud enough for the outside to hear,” the father said.

“It just strikes me as kind of odd that she was the one that was specifically targeted and nobody else,” Nimo Leauanae said.

The family identifies as Pacific Islander; the Mountain View coach is white. The Leauanaes don’t necessarily think what happened on the court was racially motivated, but that how the Alpine School District and the coach responded in a meeting a few weeks later was.

The family says the coach spent much of the meeting talking about how much volleyball he’s played and coached without any complaints.

“I realized he never apologized to me,” the teen said, “and he painted me and my family as aggressors rather than just coming up and apologizing to me.”

“He was so arrogant in everything he was saying,” Tolai Leauanae said. “He was so, you know ‘I’m above this and that.’ That we left the meeting, I looked at my wife, I said, ‘We’re going to see what’s going on with this.’”

The family sent the school district a public records request asking for its investigation. The district denied the request, but the Utah State Records Committee earlier this month ordered the report to be released.

The district sent a copy of an email a Mountain View administrator wrote in January. It said the coach could be heard yelling the condescending, but there was no name calling or profanities.

Still, even some senior Mountain View players said they were uncomfortable with their coach’s behavior. Adults said since the officials didn’t intervene, they didn’t perceive any problems.

The report also discusses Timpview’s coach, even though she was not subject of any complaint, accusing her of using profanity and bullying her own players. Timpview’s coach is Pacific Islander, too.

The school district said the Mountain View coach sat out one game, but there’s no record of him being formally disciplined. The administrator who wrote the report never interviewed the Leauanaes.

“I actually wish they would have done an investigation,” Nimo Leauanae said. “I wish they would have spoken to us. I wish they would have spoken to my daughter.”

“If anything, it was just their side,” Tolai Leauanae said. “They didn’t reach out to us.”

The couple plans to file another request for records.

“And I think he probably should have been let go,” Nimo Leauanae said, “considering he was taunting and bullying a child out loud in front of everybody.”

“The matter is not closed,” the mother added, “by far.”

Mountain View won that October match, but when the two teams met in the state championship a few weeks later, Timpview took the title.

The teen says an apology would have fixed things and it’s taken her a while to get over what happened.

“But, yeah, I’m still going to play volleyball,” she said.

An Alpine School District spokesman did not respond to questions Friday.

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