Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 12, 2011

Tennis teacher could be charged with child endangerment

Songjian Wu says language barriers, coach rivalries are behind the misunderstanding

by Sue Dremann

A tennis instructor who allegedly fled from Palo Alto police Monday (Aug. 8) with four young students in his car, leaving five other students at Cubberley Community Center, said Wednesday the incident is a case of misunderstanding based in part on his lack of mastery of the English language.

Songjian "Jack" Wu, 47, was teaching nine youngsters tennis at Cubberley in south Palo Alto when police approached him at 9:45 a.m. about giving lessons on city property without a license.

Police say he put four children ages 8 to 13 in his car and took off, leaving five others behind, police Agent Max Nielepko said. But Wu said he was moving the children to Rengstorff Park in Mountain View.

"I just wanted the kids to play tennis," Wu said.

Palo Alto's municipal code requires all instructors to have a permit or license from the community-services department to use city facilities, including parks and open space.

Wu currently has a contract with the city for leasing tennis courts at Palo Alto High School and a tentative one for Mitchell Park, which will expire Aug. 19.

Wu's troubles began on Aug. 5, he said, after police informed him that a "citizen" complained he did not have a permit from the city to teach at Mitchell Park. Wu said he believes that rivalries and jealousies between coaches for the city's courts and students have been behind the calls to police. He said he had tried to contact Shia Geminder, city recreation supervisor and facilities manager, to discuss finalizing the Mitchell Park contract on Aug. 5 without success.

Geminder could not be reached for comment.

The Aug. 5 contact with police resulted in a misdemeanor citation for giving false information to police. Nielepko said the police report indicates Wu gave an incorrect name. But Wu said he gave his American name, Jack Wu, instead of his legal name, Songjian Wu, which is the name on his driver's license.

Three days later, Wu emailed Geminder with a request to reserve two courts at Mitchell Park. He said he then brought his students to Cubberley, since it was closer to Geminder's office, so he could get the contract for Mitchell Park.

Geminder arrived at the court and informed Wu that he had to leave, Wu said. That's when he put four of his students into his vehicle and transported them to Rengstorff. He left a tennis-ball machine and balls at the court and told the remaining children to practice until he returned.

But police arrived around the time he was leaving, and Nielepko said officers believed Wu had fled with the four children and abandoned the others. Police called Wu on his cell phone and demanded to know where the children were, Nielepko said.

Wu allegedly gave conflicting information regarding the children's whereabouts, but he then said the children were left at Rengstorff. Police called the children's parents and Mountain View police, who found the four children at the park. They were not harmed, Nielepko said.

Wu said he returned to Cubberley to pick up the other children, but instead he was arrested and booked into the San Jose Main Jail. He was released on $45,500 bail.

The case against Wu is under review, said Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker. Wu could be charged with child endangerment and additional charges, he said. He is scheduled for arraignment Sept. 23.

Wu, an American citizen who was born in China, said he thinks things were misunderstood because of his faltering English. He also stammers.

"I think maybe I was talking too fast. I'm in big trouble now," he said.

Wu said he has two children of his own. It is the first time he has ever left children unsupervised, he said.

"I'm not saying I'm right. I feel bad. I just wanted them to be able to play," he said.

Parents and colleagues contacted by the Weekly said they are sure the incident is a misunderstanding and that Wu has always been a responsible person.

"He's really great. He dedicates a lot of time to really working with the kids," said Alma Lalonde, whose son, Nick, has taken lessons from Wu for two years. "He'll pick up any kids if you are tied up. He accommodates. He's so good with the kids; he takes them out for ice cream," she said.

She described Wu as a dedicated coach who loves the game. Sometimes he doesn't even ask for payment, she said.

"This is so crazy. I'm horrified that this is happening to him. I can totally see him moving the kids from one court to another. He just wants the kids to play," she said.

Ken DeHart, a U.S. Professional Tennis Association master professional coach, said he tested Wu and certified him to teach through the Professional Tennis Registry. He said he knows Wu fairly well and can't imagine that he would abandon his students.

"He has a sense of responsibility. I feel pretty confident that it wasn't this way," he said of the allegations.

Bruce Deng, a parent, agreed. His children sometimes play at Saratoga High School with Wu, he said.

"He's a really good guy. We enjoy having him as a coach for the kids," Deng said. He said he has seen firsthand how Wu handles the kids. One day Deng took a day off to help Wu at Mitchell Park, which is a preferred place to play because it is one of the only courts with shade, he said.

Baker said the incident should be a lesson to parents about who they trust with their children — even teachers.

Wu "showed extremely poor judgment. In this day and age, it's not safe for an 8-year-old to be left alone in a park. ... As a parent, I would have been outraged and terrified," Baker said.

Wu, a Mountain View resident, has a coaching license from the Professional Tennis Registry and more than $8 million insurance, documents of which he provided to the Weekly. He has a contract to use courts from the West Valley/Mission College District.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by why?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:16 am

Why are the cops hassling a guy who is trying so hard to help our kids? Why are permits so complicated and why are they needed in the first place?


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:21 am

An oddball story all around.
Sorry, it's nutty to put little kids from a tennis car in a car and take off with them like this. Definitely supervision was needed for all the kids, and parents/responsible adults should have been in the loop.
I doubt the permit process is that complicated, either.


Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

To why? Really? Perhaps it's a way to document an adult who in in contact with kids, ie: background check, etc.


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2011 at 10:31 am

Maybe Geminder and the cops should have helped him move the kids to another court instead of creating a big problem. They did run him off the court.

It really is laughable the stuff Palo Altans get up in arms about. When I was growing up this would be a joke.


Posted by Palo Alto Parent, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

Another example of government ineptitude. Most understanding adults would have accessed the situation and instead of issuing a citation would have realized the guy was trying to do his best for the kids and given him a warning.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 12, 2011 at 10:36 am

Typical PA response Why. Yeah, blame the police and the city permit process for causing the problem, and not the idiot who ignores the simple rules that are in place. Sounds like the guy had been warned, and people continued to complain about him. What do you want the police to do? Ignore the people who are actually playing by the rules? This guy should be more worried about the parents of the kids he took off with in the car and the ones he left behind. Unreal.

To further answer your question, you need the permit process because the facilities get over used from people outside the city, and they need some way to spread out the usage. The same thing they do with soccer, softball, and baseball fields. It also insures that Palo Alto residents get the first shot at reserving courts, fields, etc. I've used the process. It is inexpensive and not at all complicated. Also, like Palo Parent mentioned, a means of knowing who is coaching our children and a little about their background.


Posted by Skeptic, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2011 at 10:39 am

Sounds like Supervising Deputy District Attorney Rob Baker thinks he has found a politically useful case to jump on--something that he can trump up into a big deal to show that his boss is tough on crime before the next election. Shame on him for injecting his personal opinions into the press reports. There are ethical rules against that, but they hardly ever get enforced. Somebody remind me, didn't Baker's boss (DA Jeff Rosen) complain about all the ethical violations of his predecessor when he ran for office? Maybe Baker didn't get the memo...


Posted by Cops don't know "Jack", a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 11:08 am

Really? A misdemeanor citation for giving false information to the police because Wu gave the cops his American name rather than his legal name? Didn't the cops think to ask to see a copy of his driver license? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2011 at 11:15 am

I am sorry for all the problems this coach had to face. It seems like someone is behind all the complains and this person is probably loving the fact that he ended up in jail. Shame on you! All because a silly competition to get more students. In any case, the coach should have contact the parents to help him move the kids to another location. What a crazy mess he ended up bc someone was picking on him.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

If Mr. Wu has a lawyer he might end up suing the Police for misuse of color of authority or the press (the other papers, the Weekly did a decent job here) for libel.

But I'd talk to Shia first; he has done a good job for us over the years for City of Palo Alto rec and special events.


Posted by Priority?, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm

This is not the first coach I know of who doesn't have license/permit to use city facilities. My children and I have played on numerous tennis courts in the past 15 years. Why now? Is PA so desperate for revenue? I suggest that they look at their overtime, pay, and pension plans. As a tax payer of this city, I'd like to see my tax dollars spend on protecting our neighborhood- instead, our police force priority seems to be giving out tickets and fines. NOT a good use of our police force!


Posted by huh?, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Why not just blame the "coach?" He abandoned the children. Gave an American name and not a legal name, he should know better. Sounds like police did warn him prior. I am willing to bet the police dealt with this in response to fellow citizens' complaints. Do not blame them for enforcing what you ask them to. Stop blaming everyone but the person responsible for not following the rules, no... laws... and abandoning the kids. What is wrong with you folks?


Posted by A long-time resident, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Well the Palo Alto Community Services institutionalized program is good. But what a shame the coach tried to teach kids in Palo Alto! Even if the kids were from PA, it would have been better had he just gone to Mountain View instead.

It's easier to do business in Mountain View - even if you're a tennis coach!!!! It sounds as if the police were on this man's tail, and for what? Teaching tennis to children? They have nothing more important to do? Who, in their right mind, complains that children are being taught TENNIS?

Stay out of Palo Alto. Look at the way the city botched the Children's Theater issue - now, this. Next thing the police will do is to cite children for selling lemonaide in front of their homes.

Parents: Let PA kids have fun in other communities that are sane. Life is just too short.


Posted by S.A. White, a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm

So sad that mr.Wu would become a scapegoat when he meant well.
How about the community showing a little humanity.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm

A few things that come to light from this story.

There are obviously not enough tennis lessons or anything else available for parents to get their kids to do during summer.

Parents are willing to pay money to get their kids into activities without checking to see if the right permits, etc. exist.

There are not enough courts around town.

There are vindictive people around who will call the police first before trying to solve a problem in a friendly manner.

There are good people around willing to help kids and earn some money and are unable to recognise that they needed to get permission to do so.

Honest people are penalised and arrested instead of being given a warning with instructions how to get permits.

Trying to do the right thing by moving lessons to a different site has made the problem worse for this poor guy. I get the impression that he was stuck in a bad situation and whatever he did he was going to be charged. Bad luck.

I assume that the police had nothing better to do at the time than come down hard on someone trying his best to do right after his initial mistake.

How old were the kids he left behind? Unless they were pretty young, then it sounds like child endangerment is a bit OTT. Most kids aged 10 and up are able to play at the park for a short time without supervision and many younger kids do the same.

Sad story of our times.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Sure, city permit processes may bring up questions - it is up to the adult seeking the permit, for tennis or whatever, in this city or wherever, to look into it. There surely was spare time for this to get sorted out. Putting little kids into a car and transporting them to another city, leaving some behind is just...oddball...as I wrote before, and does not indicate good judgment.


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm

So many robberies around town and our police is after a coach who is teaching kids how to play tennis???? This makes no sense.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm

The city has a permit process for several reasons. Foremost, I would think, is to make sure that for-profit instructors do not monopolize the courts and prevent families and city recreation classes from using facilities that our tax dollars pay for.

As for the name issue, I find it impossible to believe that the police would choose to cite this guy for falsely identifying himself without asking for his ID and without trying to sort out his "American" name. So, obviously, that is just some ludicrous excuse that this guy came up with after he found out the cops didn't find his name game funny.

And for those who wrote that the cops should have warned him... they did! Read the article. He was warned about not having a permit on August 5. The cops only got serious with him when he was back, without a permit, again on August 8, and when he chose to abandon a bunch of kids.

Bottom line, Mr. Wu (whatever his first name is) is a business man who should know what permits he needs and that he can't just leave a bunch of kids unattended. He made his bed. Now he has to lay in it.


Posted by Joshua, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Bil, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I wonder what the comments would be if Mr. Wu had molested a kid? Would we all be up in arms about how an unlicensed person was having tennis lessons in Palo Alto and what agency responsibility was it?

You can't expect in Palo Alto to have it both ways! You can't insist on the absolute safety of our kids, while allowing for poor Mr Wu's inability to run an unlicensed Tennis operation on city courts! What's our priority?

It seems as though Mr. Wu was warned, and he decided to continue; he appears to have enough english language competency to discuss tennis to parents and convince parents that he is a trustworthy person, yet his language skills have failed at discussing his legality.

Maybe the palo alto parents that are benefitting from Mr. Wu's tennis could help pay for him to do his business legally.


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm

The Palo Alto police went to the Children's Theater when kids were rehearsing for a play and closed down the building. Who remember that? They could not wait until the rehearsal was over (30 more minutes) to invade the theater and close it down. Many kids were very scared and some parents were really upset. Here again.

Why the police could not wait to do whatever they need to do with Mr Wu when after the end of the lesson? Why they could not wait for a moment when there were no kids around to talk to Mr Wu?

I am not saying that Mr Wu was right. I am just saying that the police should do their business when there is no kids around.

I think we need to take better care of our children. The police should get involved when kids are in danger, not when they need to get a license or close a building for whatever other reason that has nothing to do with the safety of our kids.


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I can see the need for businesses to be licensed and so on, but as someone mentioned earlier, was this so critical for the police to be called and have them show up like this when the kids were still in their lessons?
Either this is an extremely serious crime that I cannot comprehend, or our city staff and police have lots of time on a Monday morning.


Posted by Incredulous...., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm

"Geminder arrived at the court and informed Wu that he had to leave, Wu said."

Why didn't Geminder show up with a permit form and have him fill it out? Problem solved.

Instead she calls the Police? The guy is being persecuted due to the laziness of Geminder and the ineptitude of the police department.

Our tax money, wasted. Geminder should be fired.


Posted by Chinese Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2011 at 2:31 am

OK, it's one thing for a parent to leave their own kids somewhere, but for an instructor (who parents trust to take care of their children) to leave children alone is a safety and trust issue. It doesn't matter how great of a guy or teacher he is. He should not have left the kids. Plus, if he was taking the kids to Mtn. View, who would supervise them there? He could not be in two cities at once. He should have just phoned the parents to pick up their kids and ended class for the day.

I'm not buying the language barrier; he knew what was going on and had applied for permits in the past.

Not enough tennis courts? We have way too many tennis courts available. How about Jordan Middle School courts? Sure, they are black top, but no one ever uses them. As a tennis player, I can understand the frustration if all the courts are being used for lessons. The permit is a good ordinance.

@Resident: there are plenty of tennis lessons available. Kim Grant Tennis lessons at Midtown, Palo Alto rec, Andy Harader at Paly, Eichler Swim & Tennis, other clubs. I'm guessing Wu's students were all Chinese and Chinese parents prefer him as a teacher.

@Ann: The police need to enforce rules also. There's a reason for ordinances.

@Carlos: You expect the PAPD to twiddle their thumbs and wait for the lessons to conclude before addressing the issue? Get real.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2011 at 7:25 am

So many questions that a parent should ask.

Is Wu certified by USTA? Does he have First Aid and CPR certificates? Does he maintain emergency contact information and have it with him? Does he have insurance for accidents?

I don't know much about tennis, but I do know that the aquatic sports have national associations that have coaching credential programs. Those programs require first aid, CPR and base competency training. Further, the associations provide instructions on insurance certificates, etc. Also - these organizations run background checks.

Part of the permit process for business use of a city or school facility is to show proof of insurance via an insurance certificate that is issued via these associations. The certificate will show coverage for the coach and will also cover problems that may arise at the facility.

As much as I appreciate individuals who try to make a living through their own efforts, I have no patience for people who try to work around the system and take short cuts. And I am wondering if the parents of these kids performed any basic due diligence to make sure Wu was technically certified, first aid certified, insured, etc.


Posted by Gabriel, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

Of course this guy needs to be licensed! He could be a child predator, etc..., this is why its imperitive to have a background check and licensing. It's innapropriate what this man did, throw the book at him. How scary for the parents this must have been!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2011 at 8:49 am

Reading through these posts, it seems to me that the Chinese community would rather have chinese teachers for their children regardless of what else may be around and they trust them completely for no other reason than they are chinese.

I feel sure that other communities probably feel the same about one of their own. There is a trust of what is familiar which is probably what has happened here.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2011 at 9:08 am

> Is Wu certified by USTA?

When I was a kid, I learned to play tennis by watching some older kids playing, then doing pretty much the same.

How sophisticated, how urbane, we have become .. that we can only learn to hit a ball with a racket from a "nationally certified" instructor.

Wonder what the qualifications for teaching tennis will be in a generation or two? Maybe it's time rethink all this "prosperity", put our feet on the ground, and "get real".


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

It's priceless to read about the criticism of the police, the parks manager, or the permit process. As I stated earlier, typical Palo Alto response, Blame everyone except the moron who ignored the rules, didn't take the previous warning to heart, took off with three kids in his car to avoid responsibility, all the while abandoning several other children. Yeah, just what the parents signed up for. Unreal.

The rules and the permit are in place for a reason, all of which this guy knew very well. The process is very easy and inexpensive. I know, I've done it. The police were responding to what sounds like were several complaints about this guy's operation and failure to comply with the process. He was warned a few days before by the police with no other action being taken. This guy continues to ignore the rules, and the police warning, so they're called back out. Sounds like a very reasonable and progressive approach to the problem. What would you have the city and police do in this case? Ignore the people who are playing by the rules? Get real.

Fact is he is entirely responsible for his decisions and actions. He chose to operate without a permit. He chose to ignore the rules. He chose to ignore the warning. He chose to take off with kids in his car. And he chose to leave several other kids behind. No one made him do anything. He is the one who created this whole problem and he alone. Now he alone can deal with the consequences of his decisions. It's a little something called accountability.


Posted by Tired, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2011 at 10:47 am

> Reading through these posts, it seems to me that the Chinese community would rather have chinese teachers for their children regardless of what else may be around and they trust them completely for no other reason than they are chinese.

Wow... again, this is turning into a race issue when it isn't. So tiring... so ignorant.

Does Alma Lalonde, whose son was taking lessons from Mr. Wu, sound like a Chinese name?

I am Chinese, but I don't enroll my kids into lessons just because the teachers are Chinese. My kids take skating classes at Winter Lodge, tennis lessons at Kim Grant, and rock-climbing lessons at Planet Granite. I totally trust all of the instructors and chose these institutions based on reputation and word-of-mouth. I don't seek out Chinese-led programs purely on the fact that I would trust the instructors more than I would non-Chinese ones. Total hogwash!

Sure, Chinese kids may take lessons from a Chinese teacher, but it has more to do with word-of-mouth - like everyone else.

Please, Palo Alto, let's keep race out when it has nothing to do with the issue at-hand. The issue is that the City of Palo Alto is citing a tennis instructor for possibly not having the appropriate permits to teach lessons on Palo Alto courts. Language many have been a barrier, but that's it.

Who did what wrong? Who knows. Upon reading this article, I conclude that Mr. Wu could have made better choices and that the City could have handled the situation more professionally, but I am only basing my opinion on what I have read here and in the SJ Mercury News. I will leave it up to the City, Mr. Wu and their representatives to work this out.

But it has nothing to do with Chinese parents picking Mr. Wu to teach their kids simply because he is Chinese.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 13, 2011 at 10:55 am

I agree Tired, race has absolutely nothing to do with this issue, nor which tennis instructor parents prefer to coach their children. One question though. In what seems like an attempt on your part to share the spectrum of responsibility in this matter, how do you conclude or suggest that the city may have acted unprofessionally? I don't get it.


Posted by Tired, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2011 at 11:42 am

Hi Mauel,

Sorry for the generalization. :o)

In answer to your question about the city acting unprofessionally, the article states the following: "He said he had tried to contact Shia Geminder, city recreation supervisor and facilities manager, to discuss finalizing the Mitchell Park contract on Aug. 5 without success.
...
Geminder arrived at the court and informed Wu that he had to leave, Wu said."

So, Mr. Wu tried unsuccessfully to contact Ms. Geminder. Three days later, Ms. Germinder arrives at the tennis courts and asks Mr. Wu to leave. Really?

Again, this is just my personal opinion, based on what I have read. Perhaps many things happened in between. I don't know. Again, I would rather not speculate - I'll just leave everything up to the folks involved - who really knew what happened - to figure out.

To add to my previous posting about choosing Chinese instructors just because they are Chinese… when I register my kids for lessons, I look for reputable programs with good instruction. I find these programs mostly through word-of-mouth, through the mother's club community, and through online reviews.

I prefer to support the organizations in my local community, like Winter Lodge, because the experience all-around is more meaningful, intimate and fulfilling.

But what I think is best for my child may not be the same "best" for another child. Different strokes for different folks. For all I know, if a friend had recommended Mr. Wu for tennis lessons, I may very well have been one of "those parents" being interviewed for the PAOnline!

In the end, we (all parents) just want the best for our kids.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 13, 2011 at 11:44 am

I understand your take. Thank you for the kind response Tired.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

Not a race issue at all. French people might like to get their kids to learn tennis through the medium of French and so choose a French instructor. French parents might like their kids to speak French as often as possible outside their home and choose a French tennis class rather than an English speaking swim class, or whatever. French people may know the instructor through French community and feel safer as a result.

I said as much in my post. Reread it.


Posted by Bertie, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I hear in some places folks actually get along, and call the police only in emergencies.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Thank you to The Weekly for getting this story out. I nearly called this guy!

This man came up to us on two separate occasions in the evening at Paly while my daughter and I were playing tennis. The second time he came up to us was the day after we read about this incident in the Mercury News. He could not remember that he had already given us his sales pitch and solicitation flier a week earlier.

I can't believe that he would be out looking for more customers and taking over the Paly courts, the day after the police spoke with him at Cubberly.

The card he gave to us said that he was offering both day and evening classes at a local park (I think it was Mitchell Park).

The evening classes went until 9:30pm, and the prices were as high (like $350/week/couple of hours).

The second night at Paly, his students had to sit around a long time to wait for the lights to come on (using up their time).

He told us that the court we wanted to use was for a class for his students but it was okay to use it this time. There was no "Reserved" sign posted.

I feel that I should be able to hit some balls with my daughter after I come home from work, and not be booted off the court by someone giving kids lessons since half of my property taxes go to the school district. There were no signs up that these courts were reserved for lessons during this time.

After reading this story, this now makes me worry that other groups of students were left at other places late at night.

Thanks again for saving me $350.


Posted by Tired, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

haha! Go, Bertie!

Resident, I did reread your post - several times, in fact, which is why I felt compelled to post a response.

I still don't understand how your comment applies in this situation.

What does "Chinese community would rather have chinese teachers for their children regardless of what else may be around and they trust them completely for no other reason than they are chinese." have anything to do with a tennis instructor being cited by the City of Palo Alto? In fact, I don't even think all of the students in his class were Chinese.

Where is the connection?

Like Bertie, I just want everyone to get along.


Posted by This is insane., a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm

This is a complete outrage. I personally know Jack, and I think he's one of the kindest, most responsible adult coaches in the bay area. I can't believe Palo Alto is doing this to him. Whoever complained just doesn't like him, and is probably a rival coach. I think is absolutely ridiculous that he was charged with CHILD ABDUCTION. I'm 110% sure that ALL the kids were ok with it, and that he only meant good. Seriously, I hate it when the Palo Alto authorities do this, it just makes me ashamed to live in this town.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

To This Is Insane: It wasn't Palo Alto, or a person complaining, or the authorities that did anything to this guy. He and he alone did it to himself. He's the one who ignored the rules, he's the one who ignored the warning a few days before, he's the one who chose to take off when he saw the police return, and he's the one who abandoned several children. As I see it, it is entirely a situation that he created. The entire matter could have been avoided if he had simply been responsible and done the right thing. And by the way, you may want to read the story a little closer. He was not accused of "CHILD ABDUCTION" as you so hysterically put it. He was accused of endangering a child, specifically those he was responsible for and left behind unattended. Not exactly the actions of a responsible coach.

Typical PA response. Blame everyone except for the person that is solely responsible. Seriously, sometimes it makes me so ashamed to live in this town.


Posted by Georgette Washington, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm

and we wonder why other cities refer to us as "Shallow Alto."

Perhaps we all should go back and study the original "Hippocratic Oath" our more aware and ethical medical students and health professionals.

We investigate building bicycle bridges pretty much to no where; I've never seen that many folks let alone bicycle riders on the bayshore side of 101. Foothills Park is often empty. We are greatly expanding Mitchell Park Library and Community Center. We refuse to spend the money to build an appropriate police / fire / communications facility in town. We are next door to one of the world's finest schools, and we refuse to follow the rule of law when it comes to our own city employees. Instead of being grateful to the city workers who provide the energy to warm our homes, light our homes, water our gardens and wash ourselves, we impose arbitrary contracts on them. Now we want to do the same thing to our police officers and firefighters.

Perhaps it's time to change our name to "Shameful Alto."

Web Link

Perhaps we can learn to live more closely the words of "Hippocrates" or "Pythagoreans."

To date, it doesn't appear that we are interested in integrity and right actions.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Tired


Oh dear! My post has to be read in the context of what has been said before, particularly the prior post. Don't give me a hard time, others have been more discriminatory.


Posted by nerd, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2011 at 12:29 am

any real bad things happend to kids? Mr. Wu did things wrong, but such a wrong thing made him publicly in newspaper?




Posted by Tired, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 14, 2011 at 12:30 am

Resident, you are right. Some of the previous posters made some pretty inane assumptions.

I am just tired of all the negative posts and can't help but take some of them personally.

Being Chinese is not something I can (or want) to change. But I can control who I am as a person. I try my hardest to be a good citizen. I always smile and say "Hi" when I am out and about. I make it a point to get to know my neighbors. I volunteer whenever I can. I donate to as many causes as I can. I open doors for people. I thank people for their help and kind gestures. And so on...

I also try to pass these traits on to my kids in the hopes that they can strive to be model citizens and good people themselves. We have so much to be thankful for in this country. I genuinely want everyone to get along and wish that we can just get past the whole issue of race.

I am so sorry for using you as a scapegoat, Resident. I probably did so because you were the last poster to bring up something ethnic-related.

Again, my apologies. Thank you for bearing with my rants.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2011 at 7:09 am

@Wondering: my point is that through the certification process the instructor has to through a background check, become first aid and CPR certified and has access to insurance coverage that would meet city or school requirements.

I guess these are bad things in your mind?


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2011 at 8:37 am

> I guess these are bad things in your mind?

No .. my point is that $350 (or more) to learn the basics of swatting a ball with a racket is a "racket"--and unnecessary. I learned as a child without someone who had CPR (how often does a child need CPR during a fifty minute tennis lesson?) telling me to "keep my eye on the ball". It turned out to be obvious. Why isn't it obvious to kids in PA?

Oddly, with all of these cited "certifications", English--needed to operate in a US cultural environment--is not required. Or any understanding of local ordinances involving the use of public space. Maybe, just maybe, this fellow wasn't as "certified" as he should have been?

How many of these kids would be better off, in the long run, if their parents had taken the time to go to a tennis court and given them the basics, even if the details were a little less "professional" than those of a $100/hr tennis "pro"? (Not having to spend time with their kids is worth $350?)

This past week, we saw young people in England run amuck, in large part because they didn't seem to have any effective parenting during their formative years. Wonder how many Palo Alto parents are bonding with their children (effectively) when they ship them off to "classes"?

---
On a slightly different point ..

Was wondering ..

1) If this guy is soliciting business on public property, does anyone know if that is legal?
2) What do folks think about the City allowing its courts to be reserved for business purposes?
3) Does the City allow all of the courts at a given location to be reserved by a single person for business purposes?
4) How many hours a day can a professional reserve Palo Alto tennis courts?


Posted by business, a resident of Southgate
on Aug 14, 2011 at 9:39 am

He is just doing his own business trying to earn money to support his family,leave him alone,pa police.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

Hey Business, you suggest that the police singled this guy out for no reason and decided to prevent him from plying his trade. Unreal. He could have gone on coaching without anyone getting involved if he had simply obtained a permit to do so. It's easy and affordable. The rules are in place for good reason, especially when it involves children. All he had to was follow the simple rules. Besides, what do you suggest the police say to the people who were calling in to complain about this guy's operation? Are you going to ignore those following the rules? No. The police received a complaint, and they gave the guy a simple warning. Seems like a perfectly reasonable next step to me. It should have ended right there.

This became a larger, more complicated matter because this guy made it that way. He ignored the rules, he ignored the warning, he drove away to avoid taking responsibility, and he abandoned several children without supervision. No one made him do anything. Instead of blaming the police, or the people who made a legitimate complaint, how about placing it where it belongs, with the guy that is solely responsible.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

Per the Rec Dept website "Tennis courts are available for reservation for Palo Alto Tennis Club and USTA tournament use only, otherwise courts are on a first come, first served basis." It sounds like unless was part of the Palo Alto Tennis Club, he should not have been excluding others from using the courts.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

Mom, not quite the entire set of rules and regulations. The first come, first served rule applies to personal use. Anyone using these facilities for commercial purposes must have a permit.


Posted by Don't let them fool you, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 14, 2011 at 11:42 am

There are some people who are extraordinarily good at playing dumb... pretending they did not know about this rule or that, that they tried, that they did not know they were supposed to give their real name, etc... Don't let them fool you. They are just pretending.

You are not supposed to ignore the law. So, if you need a permit to do something, you get it. Period.

I have no patience for people who act like this Mr. Wu.


Posted by stop this, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm

It's strange that even people who believe Mr. Wu was in the wrong, don't think it's a little excessive that a tennis coach got thrown in jail for this? Was that really necessary? Regardless of if a coach didn't get a permit, and left the kids in a group for 15 minutes on a public tennis court, I still think it's excessive to throw someone in jail for that. And have them post $45000 bail like a real kidnapper. You can see a parent, for example, leave a group of kids around 10 years old (or old enough to take tennis lessons, which would NOT be really young kids) to play on their own in a public park for fifteen minutes and drive away on an urgent matter. And to cite someone for intentionally lying to the police when they probably didn't think twice about giving their American name because that's what he usually does, without any ulterior motives. An easy target, with language barriers, got thrown in jail from petty rivalries between tennis coaches for some of them to get more students. It's a complete shame on Palo Alto and the Palo Alto police. Cite Mr. Wu for using the court without a permit because that's what he did. And stop with the travesty of the other ridiculous charges.


Posted by stop this, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm

At the worst, Mr. Wu committed an irresponsible act that reflects badly on him. He did not commit a crime that warrants jail time and a $45,000 bond, and should not be tying up the courts and jail space when there are serious criminals out there who should be in jail/on $45000 bonds.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Stop This, once again, it is a situation that this guy created entirely himself. You have no idea what his ulterior motives were other than quite possibly avoiding his responsibility. And by the way, some of the children were as young as 8 years old. Far too young to be left unsupervised. He didn't get thrown in jail because of petty rivalries, or because the police acted shamefully. He got thrown in jail because of his decisions and actions. He alone is responsible.

Also, he was not charged with or held on a bail that comes even close to that of a "kidnapper" that you so hysterically compared this to. He was charged with a lower level, misdemeanor offense of placing children in danger. A reasonable charge considering his actions, and the one that I'm sure most of the parents and reasonable people would agree with. I'm also quite sure this incident will not prevent the police from handling more serious matters appropriately, or from finding jail space for other criminals.

Just another example of rationalization and excuse-making, blaming everyone except for the guy who is truly responsible. It's called accountability and consequences.


Posted by stop this, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm

He is responsible for what he did and exactly what he did: no more and no less. Which are using a tennis court without a permit, and leaving a group of children for 15 minutes to play within a closed-off tennis court on their own before coming back for them. An 8 year old is definitely too young to be left in a park alone; but you can see an older 12 year old babysitter/older sibling taking an 8 year old to a park to play. A group of children 8-12 playing in a park by themselves for 15 minutes is NOT good, and reflects badly on the coach, but at the most it was an irresponsible action that he committed when the police suddenly demanded him to leave, not a crime. Claiming that most parents and reasonable people would agree jail and $45,000 bond is reasonable for him is ludicrous. And if it's a good use of taxpayer money to arrest and prosecute every person who makes an irresponsible choice (not a crime), just because there's still plenty more taxpayer money to be used for serious offenses - it still does not make it any less of a travesty on the justice system.


Posted by Don't let them fool you, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by stop this, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by listenandtalk, a resident of Monroe Park
on Aug 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Why did not he talk to her(police officer)?


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm

The police should have waited to talk to Mr. Wu when kids were not around. Period. The children's safety should have been first, but instead they did exactly the same with the Children's Theater when the closed down the theater with kids inside 30 minutes before the rehearsal was over. They should know better. It is not unrealistic to ask for the police to take in consideration the children's presence in those incidents.


Posted by Ann, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm

The police should have waited to talk to Mr. Wu when kids were not around. Period. The children's safety should have been first, but instead they did exactly the same with the Children's Theater when the closed down the theater with kids inside 30 minutes before the rehearsal was over. They should know better. It is not unrealistic to ask for the police to take in consideration the children's presence in those incidents.


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Sounds like this guy fled when he saw an officer arrive, before the police could talk to him. Presumably the officer would have pulled him aside and had a conversation with him, much like they had with him the first time they spoke to him and gave him a warning. I don't see anything traumatic or detrimental with that as far as the children are concerned. At that point, the only issue involved was the permit. A minor issue indeed, and one that he escalated when he loaded several children in his car and took off before the officer could speak to him. In the process, he left behind several children that were in his care.

Somehow, Ann transfers the responsibility of what took place, and suggests that it was the officer's actions that compromised the children's safety somehow. Unbelievable. As if any officer, or reasonable person for that matter, could ever predict in a million years that the man he was going to simply speak to would flee the scene and abandon several children. All over a permit violation no less. He very well would have ended up with another warning.

No, I have to respectfully disagree and maintain that it was this man's unforeseen decision making and actions that got him into the situation he's in. The police didn't contribute to this nor did anyone else. He was trying to evade his adult responsibilities, and chose to pack up and leave before the officer could reach him. In the process he left several children unsupervised, which bought him the child endangerment charge. Again, another example of rationalizations and finger-pointing at everyone except for the one responsible.


Posted by Duh, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 15, 2011 at 7:42 am

This Jack guy knows what he's doing. He was using city facilities illigally, and he knows it. He should be cited. (If anyone who wanted to run a business on public property could, that would be quite a mess for all of us. Can we have more fake poor people setting up shop on Stanford Ave, can we, please???)

Regarding running him off the court, he needed to stop the lesson and supervise the kids. So...


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2011 at 9:39 am

Seems like everyone is losing in this situation, the tennis instructor, the kids he teaches and the resources the city and county are spending to go after this guy.

I'd like to see the city, the instructor and the police/DA all get together and just reach an agreement that the instructor gets his permit/pays for tennis court rentals, and all charges be dropped.


Posted by Nathan, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2011 at 11:19 am

I don't think he should be allowed to get off on this 100% He was arrested for the lower level offense of child endangerment. I lloked it up. Seems appropriate for abandoning children as young as 8 y/o that he was entirely responsible for. Certainly not the crime of the century, but putting myself in the parent's shoes, I think he should be accountable for something other than just obtaining a permit. On that note, after the poor judgment he showed, I'm not sure if he should even be granted a permit.


Posted by golden rule, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

So many people willing to beat up this guy with the letter of the law while ignoring that he had and was attempting to comply with the spirit of the law. He was paying for licenses. It sounds like he got between a rock and hard place trying to fulfill his coaching obligation while dealing with unexpected bureaucracy. Can we cut the guy some slack?

Child endangerment? The kids are more in danger driving to the tennis courts in their parents cars. He brought kids from age 8 to 13 together -- the 13 year olds are old enough legally to watch the younger, especially for the brief time it took for him to transport the rest of the children. If the parents trust him to drive their children, that's their decision. When I was 8, bringing the kids to a park or enclosed tennis court to play meant they were privileged, not endangered.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm

The first obligation of any teacher or coach is to keep their students safe. Period. What if your kids kindergarten teacher decided to take half the class to the park and leave the other half with a 5th grader?


Posted by Mauel, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm

What unexpected bureaucracy Golden Rule? He had obtained permits to coach at other facilities. It's apparent that he understood the rules, and was given a warning days before. I don't understand what was "unexpected" or bureaucratic about this. As for the endangerment part, I think PA Mom hit it right on the head. You don't leave children unsupervised. Period. I'm very sure that whoever was left behind, no matter what age, were expecting or properly prepared and qualified to be watching over other children. I'm also quite sure that the children's parents didn't sign up for their children being left unattended and unsupervised. He was arrested for a lower level endangerment offense, which I believe upon review is very appropriate for this circumstance.


Posted by Nick, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:01 am

A triumph for justice or a conspiracy by rivals and the authorities? One point of view states a trusted and experienced tennis instructor somehow had no clue how the Palo Alto permit system works (even though he's used permits all over) and the other point of view states he must have been fleeing from police and lying about his identification. (Really? When he gives the police his nickname and real last name and tells him he's a tennis instructor? ) As usual I'm sure the majority of us believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle; a man made mistakes, and the parents of the children involved should be the ones deciding if he should be charged. The ability of society to level outrage at people and actions is a gift to a free society, a gift that can make endless changes to situations both great and small, but it should be used with caution. We should all be constantly aware of the line that distinguishes a crime from a simple mistake. That line is blurred and that line is dangerously mobile. Context of events adds information that none of us can ever be aware of, information that can be especially pertinent in minor situations. As none of us know what the total context was, we can be sure that his business is ruined locally and he is publicly shamed, a punishment which I hope he deserves when the facts come out, because it is a punishment that has already been given and sadly can't be taken back. The way so many of us hope the athlete we hate cheats, pray the politician we don't like is corrupt, and proudly chant for justice before he's even found guilty. It's deflating.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2011 at 9:16 am

"the way so many of us hope the athlete we hate cheats, pray the politician we don't like is corrupt, and proudly chant for justice before he's even found guilty.." HUH? I have NO idea what you are insinuating here. Your comment certainly has NOTHING to do with this case.


Posted by Mencken, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm

It's excessive to arrest this guy, publish his name, and ruin his reputation - for what? Only in Palo Alto. The Weekly has a penchant for running at the mouth about people who have had minor conflicts or even innocent interactions with the police, and publishing stories in a way that tarnishes reputation. Bill Johnson, the Publisher of the Weekly, should be ashamed of himself. If Wu is exonerated, you can bet it will find its way to page 15 in the Weekly, after the damage is done.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm

@ Mencken - I believe the story first appeared in the Mercury News, and other papers before The Weekly published it.

I first read the story in The Mercury News, and the day after it was in the Merc, I saw him over at the Paly courts at night.

I'm glad the story was published locally so parents so parents know what they are paying for.

I would have been upset if my child was left to hit balls with other kids for $350/week without an instructor.






Posted by observer, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Jack Wu regularly kicks people off courts -- even ones he hasn't properly reserved -- on account of his tennis lessons. He lies about having reservations for courts and lies about being a coach at Paly to try to con people into thinking that he has some right to be there.

He claims to just want the kids to be able to play tennis, but the only kids he cares about are the ones whose parents pay his bills. He has no qualms about bullying other kids/players off the courts so that he can make make money using the public courts that are supposed to be available to all.


Posted by Bound to happen, a resident of Gunn High School
on Aug 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

In my opinion, Wu's judgment on this day is reflective of his character and general lack of judgment. This was not a one-off situation and this guy was bound to get caught doing something improper, such as this.

I regularly play weekday nights at Palo Alto HS courts. He claims to have courts #1 and #2 reserved for USTA tournaments (waiving the phrase "USTA" as if it had the same cache as "FBI" or "NYPD"), even though it is apparent that he is only giving private lessons. He also claimed to be a coach at PA HS, though when I checked into it this was completely untrue.

He regularly attempts to lie his way into kicking people on other courts off as well.

And for you parents who are conned into paying over your hard-earned money and entrusting your children with him. This guy has upwards of 15 kids of two courts, and not once have I heard him give any instructions, and I have been there several times since he does lessons nearly every night there. The kids are obviously not learning anything. It is little more than a glorified rally-session, and a rented ball-machine could probably provide more benefit for much less $$.

Actually, let me amend what I just said. The kids ARE learning something. They are learning that lies and misrepresentations are legitimate ways to get what you want. Why reserve 3 courts when you can have 3 for the price of 2 and a little dishonesty?

I just hope that now the story is out you hardworking parents can find a real tennis coach somewhere. This story just confirms that this guy is out for himself.


Posted by Kevin, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I met Jack a couple months ago. He is a decent man who takes good care of his students. I believe that he would never do anything to put his students in dangerous on purpose. It is obvious that some people try to make this incident a big deal. I've played tennis with Jack's students and talked to them in person. They all like Jack a lot and think he is a cool coach. He tries really hard not to occupy too many courts. I think the police is going too far on this case. It's injustice to put a innocent person in jail and then spread negative comments to give him an evil reputation.


Posted by Helen, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Mr.Wu has been teaching my two kids for 3+ years. I am VERY happy with my kids tennis progress, and the way Mr.Wu teaches them. Before we met Mr.Wu, we had quite a few tennis instructors from Palo Alto Rec. department and Portola Valley Tennis Club. Mr.Wu is one of the best tennis instructors we have ever met. We feel lucky that we found him, otherwise my kids would have never develop passion for tennis. Instead of creating problems for Mr.Wu, I really believe that City of Palo Alto Sport department should help Mr.Wu to obtain all necessary permits and support his efforts to build a strong tennis community in Palo Alto.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields