The Denver school board said it is aware of new sexual assault allegations against board member Tay Anderson after a woman testified before the state legislature this week that an adult within the district was preying on students.
“The board was made aware of testimony at the Colorado Capitol this week and was later informed that the accusations were against Director Tay Anderson,” the school board said in a statement provided by the district. “The Denver police are also aware of these accusations.”
A Denver Public Schools parent, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming, testified in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that 62 young people — 61 high school students and one recent graduate — came to her starting in August for help and protection from a specific man “in a position of trust.” She said 61 of the young people were either undocumented immigrants or recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program for immigrants.
The allegations ranged from unwanted touching to “violent acts of rape,” she said. The youngest person who came to her for help was 14 years old, Brooks Fleming said. None wanted to report the adult to the police, she said, and the young people were so afraid “they could not whisper his name.” The allegations were first reported by the Denver Post.
Brooks Fleming did not name the person she was accusing in her testimony. She declined further comment, explaining she’d said all she’s comfortable saying in her testimony.
Anderson’s lawyer, Christopher Decker, said in a statement Saturday that Anderson “categorically denies the most recent allegations.” Decker said none of the allegations include any details to which Anderson can respond.
“He looks forward to defending himself from these false claims just as soon as they emerge from anonymity into the light of fair investigation,” Decker said.
On Friday night, Anderson tweeted a statement about the allegations but did not mention that the school board said the allegations were about him.
A Denver Police Department spokesperson confirmed that the department had been in contact with Brooks Fleming but said the police have not heard from any victims.
“If someone is a victim, we encourage them to contact Denver police,” Denver Police Department spokesperson Jay Casillas said in a statement.
Brooks Fleming made her comments during testimony on a bill that would allow underage victims of sexual misconduct to sue organizations, including education entities, that operate programs if the abuse happened while the victim was participating in the program.
“Those who came to my home did not have health insurance, couldn’t afford emergency rooms, and even if they could, they wanted to avoid mandatory reporters for fear that such an interaction could jeopardize their family,” she said.
Anderson is under investigation by an outside firm hired by Denver Public Schools. The district launched the investigation after the civil rights group Black Lives Matter 5280 said in March that a woman came to them to report that Anderson had sexually assaulted her. Separate from that accusation, former members of anti-gun violence group Never Again Colorado said that Anderson engaged in inappropriate behavior when he was the group’s president in 2018.
Anderson, 22, has repeatedly denied those allegations, saying “I have not sexually assaulted anyone.” In his tweeted statement Friday, Anderson said he’s grateful that the new allegations were reported to the authorities “to ensure a fair and legal investigation is conducted.”
“These allegations are troubling and must be investigated,” Anderson said, adding that, “We must ensure Denver Public Schools is a safe place for all students, and we must build systems in our district that continually protect our students from any possibility of harm while in our care.”
On Saturday, Decker said that as Anderson’s attorney, he is “particularly concerned that while absolutely no details or facts have been released regarding any of these claims, it appears that many have already presumed his guilt, vilified him, and ignored his significant contributions to the DPS community. I ask you to remember that we are a nation of laws and principles.”
The Denver school board said the investigation into Anderson remains open. The board said it encourages anyone with information to email the group conducting the investigation, the Denver-based Investigations Law Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org.