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Denver Public Schools board member Tay Anderson addresses the media during a press conference outside the Denver Public Schools headquarters on Friday, September 17, 2021. Anderson spoke to the media with members of the NAACP and Denver Ministerial Alliance before the school board meeting and censure vote. (Photo by Katie Klann/Denver Gazette)

Denver school board member Tay Anderson indicated he filed a lawsuit against several people who accused him of sexual assault earlier this year.

Anderson announced the lawsuit Wednesday, saying he is suing Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming, Dr. Apryl Alexander, Black Lives Matter 5280 and others for $1 million for defamation and civil conspiracy for their roles in publishing the allegations.

In March, members of Black Lives Matter 5280 tweeted that Anderson had sexually assaulted a woman in 2017 and that the victim had come forward to them. In May, while testifying in a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Brooks Fleming said an adult within Denver Public Schools had sexually assaulted over 60 victims. She did not name Anderson, but later confirmed she was talking about him.

The Denver school board launched an investigation into the allegations, and, in September, announced that it did not find any evidence to substantiate the claims.

“I believe in restorative justice, but true restoration can only happen when both parties are willing to engage and take accountability for the harm they’ve caused,” Anderson said. “When that fails, I am left with no choice but to take the necessary steps through legal action to clear my name and to do everything in my power to ensure our students feel safe in their schools regardless of which Board member is present.”

Anderson said the allegations “immediately changed” his life. He said the experience has lost him “countless” job opportunities, disrupted his work at Denver Public Schools and put his family and friends in danger.

“I did not come to this decision lightly and it pains me to once again bring attention to this traumatic experience, but I'm a victim of false allegations that almost took my life,” Anderson said. “I am hopeful that this process affords me the opportunity to find a path forward and to continue the work to heal our community.”

Brooks Fleming, Alexander and Black Lives Matter 5280 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In September, when the results of the school board’s investigation were released, members of Black Lives Matter 5280 doubled down on their allegation, saying the victim came to them and requested that they release the statement detailing the alleged sexual assault.

“We believe Black women. Full stop. Our involvement and statement aren’t motivated by anything other than our commitment to believe women who say they have been harmed and to prevent further harm,” the statement read. “One of our main purposes since inception has been to support Black community and help pave a path to liberation.”

Though the school board’s investigation did not find any evidence to substantiate the sexual assault allegations made against Anderson, it did conclude that Anderson had been inappropriately “flirtatious” with underaged students.

The report said Anderson, 23, “had flirtatious social media contact” with a 16-year-old Denver student while he was a board member. While running for his board seat in 2018, he asked a 17-year-old Douglas County student to stargaze and have a sleepover with him. Anderson was 20 at the time. 

The report also said Anderson “made two social media posts during the investigation that were coercive and intimidating toward witnesses.”

On Sept. 17, the school board voted to censure Anderson as a result of the investigation’s findings. Days after the censure, more than 200 students walked out of North High School in Denver, demanding that Anderson resign.

Attorney Issa Israel, who is representing Anderson in the lawsuit, said the investigation “vindicated” Anderson, though he is still suffering from the consequences of the unfounded sexual assault allegations.

“At this point, it’s not about getting revenge, it’s about getting justice,” Israel said. “Prevailing on a suit for defamation can be difficult for public officials but we’re confident that some of the more egregious mistakes the Defendants made in pulling off this twisted caper will allow us to help Director Anderson finally begin to take back the life and burgeoning legacy he was building before the BLM-Fleming squad tried to destroy it.”

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