Tay Anderson will step back from ‘everyday’ duties during investigation — but Denver school board says he’ll still vote on new superintendent

Tay Anderson, wearing a blue suit, red tie and handkerchief, and black baseball hat, speaks into a microphone from the dais of the Denver school board.
Denver school board member Tay Anderson, seen here in 2019, said he doesn’t want to be a distraction from the district’s work while an investigation is ongoing. (Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post)

Denver school board member Tay Anderson said Sunday he would step back from “everyday board functions” until an outside firm hired by the school district completes an investigation into sexual assault allegations against him.

In a separate statement, the school board clarified that Anderson will still vote on key matters, including the selection of a new superintendent, which is set to happen June 3. A Denver Public Schools spokesperson said Anderson’s stepping back means Anderson will not attend school or district meetings with staff or students. 

“These unsubstantiated false allegations have caused a great deal of trauma to our entire district, and our students deserve better,” Anderson wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “These false claims have put my family and I in harm’s way, and now as a father and son, I must protect those I love first, therefore I will be stepping back from everyday board functions until the completion of the independent investigation.”

Anderson announced his decision two days after the school board announced it was aware of new allegations against him

“Director Tay Anderson’s fellow DPS board members agree with his decision to step back from routine board functions and events until the conclusion of the investigation authorized by the board on April 6,” the board members wrote in a statement Sunday night.

“Director Anderson will continue to vote on necessary matters before the board including the hiring of a new superintendent.” 

In addition to meetings, Denver school board members often attend events at district schools. In recent weeks, Anderson has attended high school graduations, and he was at an in-person press conference at South High School Wednesday to announce the selection of the next superintendent.

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.

Then this week, Denver parent Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming testified before a Colorado legislative committee that 62 young people, nearly all of them current Denver high school students, came to her starting in August seeking help and protection from a specific man “in a position of trust.” She said they had experienced abuse ranging from unwanted touching to violent rape. 

Brooks Fleming did not name Anderson in her testimony, but on Friday, the Denver school board said it was aware of allegations of sexual abuse and that those allegations were against Anderson.

The Denver Police Department said it has spoken to Brooks Fleming but has not heard directly from any victims.

Also on Sunday, the Colorado High School Democrats, a group that Anderson once chaired, called for him to resign.

“Director Anderson has lost the confidence of the students and families of his school district,” current High School Democrats Chair Spencer Wilcox said in a statement. “Students, including our many members in DPS, should not have to be afraid of one of their school board members. He must resign.”

Anderson has consistently denied all allegations against him. He said Sunday that he expects to be cleared and return to all his duties.

On Monday, his attorney, Christopher Decker, issued a new statement again denying the accusations and urging the district to respond to other portions of Brooks Fleming’s testimony that district staff were involved in a cover up.

“Director Anderson specifically denies any unlawful touching or assaults during his brief time as a teacher and since his election to the DPS board,” Decker said. “These acts never happened.”

Anderson worked as a restorative practices coordinator at North High School before his election to the board.

Under state law, a school board seat is considered vacant if the person elected or appointed to that seat submits a letter of resignation or if they miss three consecutive regular meetings. However, a school board can vote to approve additional absences by the missing member.

It’s not clear that the change in Anderson’s duties would result in any absences, considering that he will continue to vote.

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 interviews@ilgdenver.com.

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