High School Teacher Let Go Over Sexually Explicit Play

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Payson High School English teacher and debate coach Dean Gundlach is no longer an employee of the school district, according to a settlement agreement approved by the board of education Tuesday night.

The agreement stemmed from an incident early in the school year when Gundlach asked a speech and debate class at PHS to read and rehearse a play that contained obscene language, racial epithets and abusive sexual acts. The play, "Lone Star" by James McLure, is a one-act comedy set in a bar.

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Dean Gundlach

When parents complained to the district in early September, Gundlach was reassigned to non-classroom duties while the matter was investigated.

Highlights of the agreement include:

  • Gundlach's employment contract is terminated with its signing.
  • The full sum remaining on the contract will be paid, and medical and life insurance will be continued through May 30.
  • Gundlach waives any claims he has against the district.
  • The district will only provide prospective employers dates of employment, salary, job title, and a short job description.
  • Gundlach will not misrepresent the circumstances of his dismissal.
  • Both parties will pay their own attorney's fees.
  • Neither party admits any liability or wrongdoing.

Superintendent Herb Weissenfels defended the agreement, saying that paying Gundlach for the balance of his contract was necessary.

"It was that or he comes back in the classroom," the superintendent said. "Does it make everybody happy? No, but unless you can find a place where the law is broken, you're stuck. You can't do it for just bad judgment and barring a judge saying otherwise, that's all it is."

One parent, Bill Schwind, expressed satisfaction that the matter has been resolved.

"I haven't seen the settlement, but I'm sure the school district handled it appropriately and the right outcome was administered," Schwind said.

PHS Principal Phil Gille said some of Gundlach's classes have been reassigned to other teachers, and that PHS English teacher Gail Wade has taken over the speech and debate class.

Gundlach declined to comment on the matter.

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