On March 28, Denver School Board member Tay Anderson denied allegations of sexual assault made public two days earlier by Black Lives Matter 5280, an organization with which he'd previously collaborated, on behalf of an unnamed woman. But Anderson subsequently confirmed that a 2018 Denver Public Schools investigation found that social media posts targeting a female employee who said she'd been harassed by then-Manual High School principal Nick Dawkins qualified as retaliation against her.
Now, new allegations about Anderson's conduct during that time have surfaced, in a statement from six female members of Never Again Colorado, a gun reform organization for which Anderson served as president in 2018.
The statement makes no additional claims about sexual assault. Instead, the six women say that Anderson created a work environment that made them feel unsafe by, among other things, "talking in code about female board members in front of them (with romantic/sexual subtexts), daring female board members to perform sexualized actions, having conversations comparing the attractiveness of female board members, and making lewd comments in private to female board members."
"Although I would have never intended for anyone to feel unsafe or uncomfortable around myself or others, I deeply apologize to the women-identifying members of NAC for the impact of my actions," Anderson says in a statement to Westword in response to inquiries about the new allegations.
The Black Lives Matter 5280 tweet was published on March 26 under the heading "In commitment to restorative justice." Anderson tweeted a denial of wrongdoing the next day, and on March 28, he held a press conference to repeat that denial.
Regarding the 2018 retaliation finding, Anderson says: "In early 2018, I worked at Manual High School as a paraprofessional. During that time period, I posted my concerns about another Black leader leaving Denver Public Schools on several social media channels. I was informed that my social media activity could interfere with the investigation regarding that leader. When I continued to speak out on social media, it was determined that my actions were retaliatory."
He adds: "I have been held accountable for my actions and since then have had no other infractions while serving DPS as an employee or as a member of the Denver School Board."
Anderson was elected to the Denver Board of Education in 2019.
The onetime boardmembers of Never Again Colorado did not append their names to the letter. Beginning in 2018, according to them, Anderson took advantage of his position as the group's president by pursuing "female board members romantically/sexually on behalf of a friend and of himself"; they noted that while he was nineteen or older at the time, the other individuals were underage. "These power dynamics did not end at the hypersexualization of female peers — many of us felt silenced, undervalued and deplatformed," they added.
Anderson stresses that he's doing all he can to make up for things that happened in the past. "Since that summer, I have taken appropriate steps like consulting with various individuals, on what took place during 2018 to unpack my own behavior," he says in his statement. "I've met with various former NAC board members to engage in dialogue on how my actions impacted them. Now and in the future, I plan to engage and consult with restorative and transformative justice professionals to fully understand the harm I have caused in the past and to help ensure I do not repeat it."
Here is the full statement from the Never Again Colorado members, followed by Anderson's response:
Never Again Colorado boardmembers' statement:
In support of the survivor who came forward through BLM5280 we want to attest to the misconduct we witnessed and experienced as women-identifying board members of Never Again Colorado under Tay Anderson who acted as President of our organization in 2018. We feel our account will add important context for those who were completely shocked that a survivor came forward.
Tay maintained a work environment that made us feel uncomfortable and unsafe. He acted unprofessionally by sharing inappropriate/misogynistic content in board group chats, talking in code about female board members in front of them (with romantic/sexual subtexts), daring female board members to perform sexualized actions, having conversations comparing the attractiveness of female board members, and making lewd comments in private to female board members.
Tay pursued female board members romantically/sexually on behalf of a friend and of himself. Doing so abused many power imbalances including Tay having professional power over another, Tay being an adult and the other underage (as young as 15), and Tay being sober and the other inebriated. He maintained an atmosphere where this kind of behavior was normalized. These power dynamics did not end at the hypersexualization of female peers — many of us felt silenced, undervalued and deplatformed.
This was extremely harmful to us as young women who were just starting out in the political activism world. There was an immense amount of pressure to never show or express discomfort for fear of facing consequences such as shunning, being given less responsibilities, or being talked about negatively by Tay behind closed doors. That being said, he was approached about his misconduct multiple times while Never Again was active and seemed receptive to the requests made but his behavior did not change in any meaningful way.
We hope those defending Tay reconsider their harmful rhetoric. Most importantly we stand with the survivor and want to second her call for Tay to make a public apology and pursue professional mental health counseling.
Six women-identifying former board members of Never Again Colorado
Tay Anderson response:
On Sunday, March 28, 2021, I told my constituents that if I have caused any harm, I am more than willing to take accountability for my actions. On Thursday, April 1, I received a letter from my former colleagues from Never Again Colorado (NAC). In it, it details inappropriate conduct that took place while I served as President in 2018. I want to echo my statements from last week that I have not sexually assaulted anyone, nor am I aware of any actions that would be construed as sexual assault, including the conduct described in the NAC letter.
The harmful actions referenced in the NAC letter and the recent Denver Post article refer to various explicit comments I made as a teenager while serving as President, about other individuals that I worked with in NAC. I understand that these comments made women-identifying members in NAC feel both uncomfortable and unsafe. My intention was never to make anyone feel this way, but I understand now how these women-identifying members felt and this created an uncomfortable work environment for some. I also understand that in situations where people, like myself, are in positions of power and engage in this type of behavior it can lead to fear of negative repercussions, personally and professionally, and pressure to appease people with power.
When confronted with my actions and impact as a President of our organization, I acknowledged my actions were inappropriate and later resigned from my position with NAC. I did so because I believe in the power of restorative justice, I believe in empowering survivors, and I believe in listening, reflecting, and making amends when I have caused harm.
Although I would have never intended for anyone to feel unsafe or uncomfortable around myself or others, I deeply apologize to the women-identifying members of NAC for the impact of my actions. Since that summer, I have taken appropriate steps like consulting with various individuals, on what took place during 2018 to unpack my own behavior. I've met with various former NAC board members to engage in dialogue on how my actions impacted them. Now and in the future, I plan to engage and consult with restorative and transformative justice professionals to fully understand the harm I have caused in the past and to help ensure I do not repeat it.
To conclude, I still have not heard from BLM regarding specific conduct they are alleging, and my understanding is their statement is unrelated to the conduct NAC has written of in their letter. I still look forward to working collaboratively with BLM5280 for clarity on my conduct regarding the allegations they posted on social media last Friday, March 26 so that we all, especially the person claiming I have harmed them, may begin to heal.
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