School Assembly Called ‘Sexist'

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A drug and suicide prevention assembly at Payson High School turned sour Friday when the presenter made remarks a teacher described as inappropriate and sexist.

"It was remarks about dating, about a guy's interpretation of dating women," PHS math teacher Kara Huskey said. "It was just inappropriate for our young men to see that's how they should behave or for our young women as far as how they should be treated."

The presenter, David Zakarti, is a ventriloquist and all the inappropriate remarks were made through his puppet.

"He had a little puppet, a little mouse kind of thing and the mouse said some things that weren't appropriate for high school students," Assistant Principal Dan Maher said.

Huskey said she walked out in the middle of the presentation, and almost took her students with her.

"I considered removing my students but I didn't know how that would be perceived by the administration," she said.

Instead, Huskey expressed her thoughts in a letter to Maher and PHS Principal Sue Myers. Huskey said several students approached her after the assembly.

"They said they were really upset by it, and asked if they were allowed to complain. I said, ‘Certainly you are allowed to complain about it.'"

One student who is considering it is Tina Jackson, student body president.

"I thought the presenter's comments were highly inappropriate for a school assembly, and I did not understand the message he was trying to get across," she said.

Maher defended part of the presentation.

"He had a friend who was on drugs, and he said, ‘One of the things we don't do is pay attention to our friends and our relatives. I didn't help my friend and he died of an overdose when he was 23.' That came home pretty strong and I enjoyed that part of the presentation."

Maher accepted responsibility for the incident.

"I was gone all week," he said. "That was the first problem. I was real sick like everybody else in town I guess. I came in on Friday just to make sure the assembly ran all right. We went over some of his presentation and took a couple things out, but for some reason we either didn't go over the rest of it or the rest of it wasn't included. But we made it through the assembly and I apologized to a bunch of people."

Myers also apologized, but said it's tough to stop a presentation once it's under way.

"At that point when it starts what do you do -- stand up and send everybody out?" Myers asked. "We probably should have, but we didn't do that."

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