NewsLocal News


Victories and controversies: Auon'tai Anderson reflects on DPS Board term

As Denver Public Schools prepares to swear-in new members of the school board on Tuesday, Auon’tai Anderson who will not seek re-election is reflecting on the past four years.
Auon'tai Anderson.jpg
Posted at 3:29 PM, Nov 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-27 19:43:09-05

DENVER — As Denver Public Schools prepares to swear in new members of the school board on Tuesday, DPS Board of Education Vice President Auon’tai Anderson, who will not seek re-election, is reflecting on the past four years.

Anderson, who many consider a prominent yet polarizing member of the DPS Board, first ran for the board in 2017 but lost that campaign. He ran again in 2019 and won the at-large member position.

“My first 50 days in office, we passed the largest LGBTQIA+ inclusion resolution in the district history, which mandated all-gender restrooms across our district, which allow students to self-identify without parental consent. And it really affirmed and reaffirmed our support to the LGBTQ+ community,” Anderson said. “In October of 2020, we passed the Know Justice, Know Peace Resolution. It was born out of the work of four amazing Black women who attended school at Dr. Martin Luther King Early College, who went to Washington, DC, and walked around the Black History Museum, and then had a very frank conversation with their school leader and said, ‘Why did we have to travel 1,600 miles in order for us to learn about our Black history? We should be learning this in Denver Public Schools,'” Anderson said.

That resolution would revamp Black history curriculum throughout DPS.

“We also unanimously as a board in 2020, removed school resource officers from our buildings. It resulted in a 90% decrease in tickets and citations, essentially eradicated the school-to-prison pipeline,” Anderson said.

Anderson was very vocal about his support for the decision to remove SROs from DPS, but the removal would prove to be controversial.

Following several shootings involving students near Denver’s East High School and the shooting of two deans inside the school, some parents and community members blamed the violent incidents on the DPS Board of Education’s decision to remove SROs.

“I still think it was the right decision. And if I was on the school board for another four years, I would be yet again leading the charge to remove SROs from schools. We don't need a school system that is over-policed and has negative impacts on our black and brown children. Right now. 197 campuses in our district don't have the sense of safety, there's only the 13 schools that have SROs,” Anderson said. “I think that people were, they had their fears weaponized against them after this shooting at East High School. The group that was been that's been most critical of Denver Public Schools being ‘Resign DPS’ was founded and started by the lawyer of the police union. And so when you have an individual who has a financial interest, and if Denver Public Schools has police in it or not.”

Anderson said while he does not agree with Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas’s stance on officers in schools, he has confidence in Thomas as a leader.

“I was grateful to see that he was reappointed as the chief of police. And I believe that he can serve as a positive role model to Black students,” Anderson said. “I have also relied on Denver Police during my term in office on several occasions because serving in this elected capacity has led to both me and my family receiving death threats, has led to us needing to rely upon those that swore an oath to protect and serve. And so I'm grateful for the protection the Denver Police Department has granted me and my family over the last four years.”

Aside from policy controversies, Anderson faced an anonymous claim of sexual assault. An independent investigation found the most serious allegations were not substantiated but that Anderson had “flirtatious social media contact” with a 16-year-old DPS student.

“I went through an unprecedented public lynching that our city saw,” Anderson said. “I've always been straightforward and honest, that there was a time where I engaged with somebody in a non-sexual manner, and had a platonic conversation and when learning the individual's age, stopped all communication, the investigation corroborated that. And so, I'm just disappointed that people weren't able to see that.”

Anderson is leaving office at a time when some members of the community have criticized Denver’s school board for allegedly being "dysfunctional" and "ineffective". But Anderson said he disagrees with those descriptions.

“This school board is not dysfunctional. It has been the most effective school board in recent history for this district. We've raised the minimum wage to $20 an hour, teacher compensation is 59% higher than what it was when I entered office. We dismantled the school-to-prison pipeline. We passed universal dyslexia screening, we passed the Know Justice Know Peace Resolution, and we went in and made sure that if you are locking Black children and seclusion rooms, you're fired. So we've held, we've held the line of being an effective school board, and I dare anybody to point us to another district in the metro area or even in the state that has been more effective than this board at supporting Black and Brown children. And also making sure that we have the highest pay for our educators in the state of Colorado,” Anderson said.

Anderson is now preparing to run for the Colorado House of Representatives District 8 seat which is currently held by Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod.


Victories and controversies: Auon'tai Anderson reflects on DPS Board term

D7 follow up bar 2460x400FINAL.png
The Follow Up
What do you want Denver7 to follow up on? Is there a story, topic or issue you want us to revisit? Let us know with the contact form below.