DENVER – The Denver Public Schools Board of Education voted 6-1 Friday to censure Tay Anderson after an independent investigation found he had flirtatious social media contact with a DPS student and made coercive and intimidating social media posts toward witnesses.
Anderson was the lone no vote against his censure and was defiant ahead of the vote, drawing a comparison between the lynching of Emmett Till and his own circumstances and saying that “false allegations” led to threats and changed his life “forever.”
The resolution approved by the rest of the voting board said Anderson “has not met the highest ethical standards of the Board in violation of Board Policy” and came two days after an independent report from Investigative Law Group, commissioned by the board earlier this year, into multiple anonymous sexual misconduct allegations levied against him this year found that even though the most serious accusations were not substantiated, Anderson had “flirtatious social media contact” with a 16-year-old Denver Public Schools (DPS) student while he was a board member and made coercive and intimidating social media posts toward witnesses.
The six board members aside from Anderson said they felt the results of the investigation showed that Anderson had conducted himself below the standards of the board with the conduct the investigators found to be substantiated.
Board Vice President Jennifer Bacon said she believed Anderson needed to “be made to understand” some things about his behavior and power. She said she did not think he needed to be removed from the board but rather “to be held accountable and know the boundaries of your behavior.”
Board President Dr. Carrie Olson said the report identified a “disturbing pattern of inappropriate behavior and intimidation” that “can’t go unanswered.” She also noted that it found that out of the 63 people investigators interviewed, 19 said they expected or feared retaliation from Anderson for participating.
Rev. Bradley Laurvick said he would vote in favor of censure so the board could demonstrate “there is a line and it was crossed.”
“Ethical standards do not include coercion or intimidation,” he said, adding that he felt, and the report noted, “a pattern of things unbecoming of a board member.”
Angela Cobián talked about her experienced being harassed by a person with whom she previously worked who had power over her and how it had made her fearful for years and taught her coping mechanisms as a young woman.
“Regardless of age, directors should be held to a higher standard regardless of their age,” she said. “…This board is committed to operating under the highest ethical standards. Director Anderson has failed to operate under such standards.”
Barbara O’Brien said she believed Anderson’s behavior “continues to this day and does not meet the highest ethical standards” as reason to vote for Anderson’s censure.
Olson noted that censure was the only possible resolution for the board to take since Anderson is elected and would have to be removed by voters. She said she would work to write a code of conduct that will hold DPS board members to the same standards as other district employees.
She also told Anderson that she wanted to continue to work together with him, and all the members said they wanted to move forward with their duties.
Anderson spoke last and read aloud a blog post he had made earlier in the day that discussed what he called racism and persecution at the hands of the investigation at censure.
After he spoke, O’Brien said: “I really had hoped that this would be a bit more of an opportunity for introspection and apparently it’s not going to be.”
Olson reiterated that she and the other board members would like to continue to work with Anderson.
“That’s my commitment. I’m very saddened that this is where we are,” she said.
“I’m ready to get back to work,” Anderson responded. “I’m ready for the censure and I’m ready for us to get back to work for our kids.”
Ahead of Friday’s censure vote, Anderson held a brief press conference outside Denver Public Schools.
He said it will likely be the first censure of a Denver school board member in DPS history and noted that it was rushed.
“We've had segregationists on our school board, and they've never been censured for their behavior or any of their conduct wanting to separate children based on race,” he said to a small crowd. “In fact, we have schools that have been named after our segregationist school board members.”
Dr. Tony Henderson, pastor at Spottswood AME Zion Church and presiding elder for the Denver District of the AMEZ church, also spoke on the issue. He read a statement from the group’s president at the press conference, where he said the NAACP State Conference and its leaders were deeply troubled by the possible vote to censure Anderson.
Henderson said the months of “unspecific and unwarranted investigations” may open DPS up to civil rights inquiry.
“The NAACP calls on the DPS school board to be transparent in its actions, and to follow its own policy,” he read from the statement.
Bishop Jerry Demmer, president of Denver Ministerial Alliance, also spoke in support of Anderson, calling the investigation a “witch hunt.”
“That word is, if you can’t find something to go your way, you come up with a lot of false allegations,” he said.
“We got a problem when there's over 60 allegations and not one of them was founded on truth,” Demmer continued. “We've got a problem when people get together and they come together and say, ‘We're going through this together and all stand on falsehoods. We’re going to stand together on lies.’ That is a problem.”
He said Anderson and his supporters sat back to let the investigators do their jobs, and Anderson said if anything was found, he’d resign.
“They came up with nothing,” Demmer said.
At the end of the press conference, and just before entering the DPS building, Anderson again addressed the group.
“I want to make sure that we put an end to any speculation: I will not resign,” he said. “I will stay on the board until 2023 and we will continue the work we started in 2019.”