Hours after hundreds of Denver Public Schools students walked out to call for his resignation Monday, DPS Board of Education Director Tay Anderson touted his accomplishments in office and unveiled his plans for serving the district in the future.
Anderson kicked off the address delivered from Brother Jeff's Cultural Center in Five Points by laying out a series of apologies, not for his own action but for harm that may have sprung from a probe authorized by DPS into his conduct.
The probe conducted by Investigations Law Group could not substantiate allegations of sexual assault brought forward by Black Lives Matter 5280 and Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming, a parent in the district. Investigators also didn't corroborate alleged sexual misconduct by Anderson while he worked at Manual and North high schools.
The probe did find Anderson “engaged flirtatiously” with a 16-year-old DPS student. That wasn’t the only case of “flirtatious” communication with a student. In 2018, Anderson was running for his board seat when he began communicating with a 17-year-old high school girl from Douglas County, the probe alleged. Anderson was 20 at the time.
The report also corroborated that Anderson likely engaged in “some unwelcome sexual commentary, some unwelcome sexual advances and physical contact” toward the Never Again Colorado Board of Directors and their associates while he was that organization’s president in 2018. Investigators also highlighted a pair of social media posts they believed were attempts to intimidate witnesses.
Anderson in his Monday address said he was sorry that sexual assault victims may have relived traumatic experiences because of the investigation, apologized to citizens and taxpayers for the bill they had to foot for the investigation and expressed regret that DPS students’ “education has been once again sidelined by the mist of noise.”
“Nothing can replace the time lost nor the trust that has been eroded in this,” he said.
Neither the apologies or the address as a whole touched on the allegations in the ILG report investigators were able to corroborate. Anderson's fellow board members felt the corroborated allegations were serious enough to censure him, the strongest punishment available to them.
Anderson said that he supported students right to protest, but “it would be disingenuous for me to pretend as though it wasn't painful to watch.”
He indicated he felt he held the trust of the students before the unsubstantiated allegations, which he again blamed on Brooks Fleming, who had served as an intermediary for the alleged victim in the sexual assault allegations brought by BLM5280 and as a spokesperson for more than 60 students she said came to her with sexual assault allegations against Anderson. Along with not substantiating those allegations, the ILG report cast serious doubts over Brooks Fleming’s credibility.
“I do not blame them for how they feel, and I stand before them today and welcome any opportunity to hear their concerns and to participate in any restorative and transparent process to help heal the harm that has been caused,” Anderson said, indicating he asked DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero to set up regional restorative circles with students willing to participate.
Anderson went on to tout his accomplishments since taking office, including measures approved by DPS on LGBTQ inclusion, gun safety, teachers' union, COVID-19 response, racial justice and mental health, among others.
Looking forward, Anderson said he would work with the community to implement an ethnic studies program at DPS featuring people of color as educators, work to raise pay for district employees making less than $100,000 per year and implement a code of conduct for DPS board members.
That matches a call for such a code from board President Carrie Olson, who indicated during both the censure hearing Friday and a Monday news conference addressing the student walkouts that such a code was coming.
“I am an at-large school board director and I serve all stakeholders of Denver Public Schools. I am committed to working for you, listening to you and learning from you,” Anderson said. “Let's get back to work.”