Fired DSU professor faces charges in alleged assault case

ST. GEORGE – A charge brought against a former Dixie State University professor, fired from the school in December 2014 after a student alleged he assaulted her during a classroom acting exercise, has been referred to the City of St. George for prosecution.

The allegations against Varlo Davenport, former theater professor at DSU, were originally being investigated by the Washington County Attorney’s Office. Davenport is now being charged with one class B misdemeanor for assault, and the case has been referred to City of St. George Legal Services.

The County Attorney’s Office only handles charges that are class A misdemeanors and greater, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said.

The city attorney handles lesser charges relating to violations of state laws and city ordinances that allegedly happen within the city.

Robert Cosson, chief prosecuting attorney for the City of St. George, said the city’s Legal Services office does not discuss cases that are currently being processed and he could, therefore, not comment on Davenport’s case.

Davenport’s arraignment is scheduled to take place June 4 at the Washington County Justice Court in St. George.

“We are gonna contest it. We’re going to ask for a jury trial,” Davenport said.


The charge against Davenport stems from an incident in November 2014. Students in one of his theater classes at DSU were preparing for upcoming acting scene performances for which they would be graded. Much of the class time that day was focused on a 17-year-old female student who had missed a lot of class previously and was not prepared to perform her graded scene, current DSU student Lizzy Peterson, who was in Davenport’s class when the alleged assault occurred, told St. George News in March.

The student was having difficulty connecting emotionally to her scene, which was to be performed with a male acting partner. Davenport tried various techniques to help the girl better connect emotionally and deliver her lines more loudly, Peterson said, but nothing he tried was getting through to the girl. Finally, Davenport implemented an exercise that involved other students in the class trying to annoy the girl in various ways to evoke an emotional response from her – things like poking her and tossing her hair in her face. When that exercise didn’t achieve the desired effect, Davenport stepped in himself and commenced flipping the girl’s hair and nudging her as her fellow students had done.

Classes were dismissed for Thanksgiving break soon afterward. When school resumed after the holiday, Davenport said, he was pulled out of class and told he had been accused of assault and that he was dismissed from his employment at the college.

The charge Davenport currently faces has been brought by the parents of the 17-year-old student who was the focus of the November classroom exercise.

Davenport said the exercise, which is being called an assault by the student and her parents, is a standard practice in theater instruction.

When a DSU faculty board reviewed Davenport’s termination in late January, written and verbal testimony from other theater educators and also some of Davenport’s students who had witnessed the incident validated the exercise as a standard theater education practice.

After hearing both sides of the case as well as the presented testimonies, the faculty review board recommended Davenport be reinstated as a professor at Dixie State, but DSU President Richard “Biff” Williams, who had not been in attendance at the review hearing and whom Davenport said has never met with him personally about the allegations, chose to override the board’s decision and make Davenport’s firing permanent.

What’s next for Davenport

There’s a lot of this that I’m just baffled by,” Davenport said.

As Davenport awaits his June court appearance, he said finances are becoming tight for him and his family, and suddenly having no health insurance has been difficult.

“I just need a job,” he said. “We’re burning through savings.”

Davenport said he has sent out many applications seeking a new teaching position, but with the taint of the allegations in the air and a pending criminal charge as yet unresolved, the prospects aren’t bright.

“I just don’t know if anybody’s going to touch me until this is cleared up,” he said.

Davenport hasn’t been inactive during his joblessness. He is currently in rehearsals for The Space Between Theatre Company’s upcoming production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which opens April 30. Davenport will play the apothecary in the show and his wife, Andrea Davenport, will play the role of the nurse.

Davenport said he has also been designing and building sets for the upcoming Brigham’s Playhouse production of “Mary Poppins.” When that effort is completed, he said, he’d like to spend time doing volunteer work at the DiFiore Center in St. George.

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  • NotSoFast April 24, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    As a person who knows dung when one see’s it, How do you volunteer for jury duty?

  • dogmatic April 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Mr Davenport should have told the little wiener to go home and come back when she is prepared. Mr davenport is a good teacher and was just trying to help her out with a little tough love.
    It’s a tough world especially in the entertainment business 17 is a good time to start learning.
    Shame on the parents.

  • dogmatic April 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Shame on DSU . They took the cowards way out, they can’t stand up for there own . I want to know who fired mr Davenport he are she will be the first on my dung list.

    • AlexPhillips April 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      They did take the coward’s way out. The DSU code repeatedly states that conflicts between professors and students should be resolved casually if possible. Even if the student and her family didn’t want to speak to Varlo on their own, the faculty should have attempted to sit down with them and have a mediated conversation.

  • proudpatriot April 24, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    The next time DSU sends me a letter asking for a donation it go’s straight into the trash for throwing Mr davenport under the bus. Higher education is turning this countries next generation into a bunch of slack jawed …
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • Free Parking April 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Well I hope the little ugly disgusting no talented waste of human flesh is happy now. She’s upset because she can’t get a date so this is the only way Daddy’s spoiled ugly brat can get any attention.. what a scumbag no problem you can put lipstick on a pig and it’s still a PIG. Yeah by all means come to my place of employment LOL. don’t bother leaving a phone number

  • proudpatriot April 24, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    The little 17 yr olds Daddy taught her good lessons ; a good lapdog lawyer on a short leash you can put fear into a universities Leaders , they will through a good professor overboard, and you can ruin a professors life , and the little girl can remain a spoiled brat.
    Daddy you better leave her a lot of money cause she’s going to need it.

  • Free Parking April 24, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    The only victim here is Davenport but you don’t see that way. because you don’t like women so that is a typical response from your kind

  • Free Parking April 24, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Bender.. Yep it is… but he has the same right to his comment as the rest of us

    • Simone April 24, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      Absolutely but he does not have the right to say that someone should be “assaulted by …” Condoning violence against someone because you disagree with them is just plain wrong.
      Ed. ellipsis; the thread you are referring to, Simone, has been removed and therefore the ellipsis.

      • voice of reason April 25, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Here is another reference to the comments that have been deleted.

      • RealMcCoy April 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm

        FIne. I should have used a better choice of words.
        I’ll recant the “should be” and ‘ed. ellipsis’ this= maybe if she ‘had been’ she would know the difference.

  • AlexPhillips April 24, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Holy crap, you guys. I understand that you’re angry, but it’s no excuse for racist comments. Also keep in mind that it’s not the girl who filed charges, it was her parents. Every time this girl’s been mentioned, it’s been said that she wasn’t angry. She was upset and embarrassed, but she didn’t take any action against Mr. Davenport herself, at least as far as I’m aware. Even Varlo said that he doesn’t want her to suffer because of this. Lay off of her, and put the blame where it belongs: on her parents and, more importantly, on the DSU administration.

  • VoiceofReason April 24, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I agree – the victim (the instructor) IS being blamed and it’s unbelievable. What kind of despicable cretin thinks it’s okay to cause a man to lose his job and face criminal prosecution for something so ridiculous? This little brat felt embarrassed – THAT is the extent of her “injuries.” The only injuries were to her overabundant pride. She and her parents should be subject to the worst form of public shaming. And the President of this university should lose his job IMMEDIATELY. This is unfathomable. When I began reading the article, I thought for sure I was going to read that Mr. Duncan had slapped the girl; but he moved her hair around and nudged her? What a disgusting little family of trolls.

  • NotSoFast April 24, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Interesting , (some unusual), comments on this article.
    I’d like to sit in on the court proceedings on this one. Did he violate some state or city law? Will a psychology evaluation for the prosecution say she is harmed for life. ‘Just look at her, she’s crying’
    When I was in the service, I had a Drill Sargent in boot camp who got right in my face explaining how soldiers need to shape up or ship out. (the meanie). That was his role to play. Kinda like a professional acting instructor’s tactic in this case.
    I’d like to hear more from the acting class students on this one. Did they shape up?
    I think the real story is a major contributor to the college telling the president when to turn left or right.

  • veritus April 25, 2015 at 6:05 am

    When will the media stop publishing infomercials for Prof. Davenport and start reporting the truth. This article does not even describe the alleged assault in question, in which, as reported in other media, the prof grabbed the student by the back of her head, taking a handful of hair, yanked her head back, and held it back for more than a few seconds while he yelled at her and she struggled to remove his hands. When will the media do a little digging and report that the so called expert witness (singular not plural) is Varlo’s uncle, and that, in fact, this so called “resistance” technique is absolutely unacceptable in the real world of acting or theater instruction. Even if what is described in the article was an acceptable technique, what actually happened is far beyond that. If the media would take the time to check with other acting instructors not related to Varlo they might figure that out. When will the media compare the student’s (Lizzy) media statements to the facts, reveal her personal relationship to the prof and realize she is likely perjuring herself to protect her friend. If this report were true I might sympathize with some of the comments. The fact is, however, this news report has little to do with the truth, and thus this piling on of comments against the student, the university, and its president, are at least premature and certainly prejudicial. Shame on you!

    • NotSoFast April 25, 2015 at 9:23 am

      Where you been Veritus? You sound like a star witness with all the facts. You must have been at the acting class in question? Did a reporter interview you? Did you offer your opinion at the time? If not, why not?
      I’ve read several media reports, interviews with on site students on the matter. Where or who is this ‘other media source you are referring to? i.e. the only truthful one.
      The big question for me is, Where or what is the official University’s response to the charges of Varlo is unfit to teach at Dixie University and should have be fired years ago? I’ll be looking in ALL available news outlets for that answer.

  • fun bag April 25, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    REally, there’s no reason the dude should have his hands all over the students, especially an underage female. Glad he’s fired… good riddance…

  • voice of reason April 25, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Now the editorial board is deleting comments supporting the victim (the girl, not the grown man who can’t keep his hands off of her)? That’s really classy.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic April 25, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      You’ve got me pretty confused with this one, Voice of R. You’re welcome to email me and explain, or telephone me – I’m unaware of what you’re observing.
      [email protected] | 435-632-0825
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • fun bag April 25, 2015 at 7:15 pm

        seems like a site glitch, i see some of the comments out of order

      • voice of reason April 25, 2015 at 7:18 pm

        There was a comment early on by someone that referenced “a widdle bwat who got her feelings hurt” or something along those lines. I called it victim blaming. I made a sarcastic comment about teaching our daughters that assault is o.k. as long as the majority of people approve of it. That comment and my comment are both gone. I will restate what I said then. This was, by the strictest definition of the law, assault. Like it or not, the kid was a minor. It was unwanted and unwelcome touching by a person in an authoritative position. I hope those commenting in defense of the teacher realize what a difficult thing it is for anyone to come forward and report abuse. These kinds of comments are what drive victims of abuse into the shadows and make them think they “deserved” what happened to them. You’re teaching young women that they will not be believed and they they are the ones who made the abuse happen. It’s wrong.

        • Joyce Kuzmanic April 25, 2015 at 9:46 pm

          We removed a comment that was unacceptable, which impacted comments that were made in reply to the originating one.
          Mystery solved, and do carry on all of you. 🙂

          • RealMcCoy April 28, 2015 at 12:21 pm

            Very well. If censoring is the STG news way, then I’ll just be done visiting here.
            I see enough stupid banter and asinine comments on here that would warrant removal, yet because the dumb “girl” is a minor and is in the process of ruining some guys life, she gets protection to save her “widdle feewings”?
            My comment was about how there are actual assaults that happen on that campus, but nothing gets done about them and certainly not the ‘news’ coverage that this story is getting.
            Why no followup on the black guy that assaulted a girl, then broke into another woman’s dorm and assaulted her too?
            You just want to focus on this little brat and give her some sense of justification?
            Stop calling this an assault. It was not an assault; it’s a spoiled brat getting her 15 minutes of fame and her 2 parents that can’t cope with the fact that their daughter is pathetic.
            Why don’t your reporters do some real reporting and investigate how the lady that killed her baby in a hot car yet was not given a single citation or charge was actually a favored member of her ward, and the investigating officer (who also contributed to her gofundme account) was TOLD to back down and not charge her with anything. Seriously, how did that story ever get buried?

          • Joyce Kuzmanic April 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

            Real Mac – You comment did not come across the way you are stating it here – to me or other readers.
            I’d welcome your direct conversation with me on that – you may call or email me.
            Please do – we’re interested.
            ST. GEORGE NEWS |
            Joyce Kuzmanic
            Editor in Chief

            Direct phone: 435-632-0825
            Direct email: [email protected]

        • Free Parking April 25, 2015 at 11:05 pm

          Blah blah blah blah yada yada yada yawwwwn

      • Bender April 25, 2015 at 7:50 pm

        my comment which called out another commenter for being ugly disappeared.

        • Free Parking April 25, 2015 at 11:03 pm

          Bender yeah I noticed that to I guess saying. ( that’s an ugly. comment.) is banned from ST George news LOL.!

  • voice of reason April 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Another thought, I like how all the reports now are only talking about “hair flipping and poking” when all the initial news report talked about the victim (the student) being physically restrained from behind in a chair. Davenport even admitted to to that. But I guess that’s o.k. as well, because everyone wants the teacher back and “it’s all the girls fault anyway. She deserved it.”

    • RealMcCoy April 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Maybe if he had just locked her in a hot car the news would have forgotten this story by now.
      Why don’t your reporters do some real reporting and investigate how the lady that killed her baby in a hot car yet was not given a single citation or charge was actually a favored member of her ward, and the investigating officer (who also contributed to her gofundme account) was TOLD to back down and not charge her with anything. Seriously, how did that story ever get buried?

  • Free Parking April 25, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Somebody give VOR a crying towel before we all get accused of abusing a whiner

  • fun bag April 28, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    I remember when that Davenport guy put his hands all over those boys in the Nofilter episode. I felt violated just watching it. This guy may very well be a predator…

  • fun bag April 28, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    humm, the comment not at the bottom?

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