On March 28, Denver School Board member and activist Tay Anderson denied allegations of sexual assault made public two days earlier by Black Lives Matter 5280, an organization with which he's previously collaborated, on behalf of an unnamed woman.
But Anderson, 22, acknowledges that a May 2018 Denver Public Schools investigation found that he had engaged in retaliation while advocating on behalf of former Manual High School Principal Nick Dawkins, whom the district had investigated following employee complaints of harassment and bias. A Dawkins accuser tells Westword that retaliation took the form of social media posts aimed at her that began appearing the previous month. She viewed it as harassment of a person who'd made claims of harassment.
"In early 2018, I worked at Manual High School as a paraprofessional," Anderson says in a statement provided to Westword. "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."
At the time of this incident, Anderson was already a prominent public figure in Denver. In 2017, at the age of eighteen, Anderson filed paperwork to run for a seat on the Denver Board of Education; he was still a student at Manual at the time. He placed third in the election for the post that November, but he hardly disappeared following the vote. "Two weeks after the November election, it was Anderson who organized the large protest of Ink! Coffee after the store on Larimer Street promoted an insensitive advertisement that joked about gentrification in the Five Points neighborhood," Chris Walker wrote in a January 2018 Westword piece. "Anderson gave a rousing speech at the November 25 demonstration."
Anderson ran again for the school board in 2019, and since his successful election, he's seen his star continue to rise. He was among the most prominent voices during Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and he helped lead the fight against Colorado Measures of Academic Success, or CMAS, testing earlier this year; in recent days, the state was granted a federal waiver regarding the examinations.
But then, on March 26, Black Lives Matter 5280 unleashed a bombshell charge against Anderson on Instagram, under the headline "In Commitment to Restorative Justice":
That same day, Anderson refuted the claims on his Twitter account:
STATEMENT FROM TAY ANDERSON: pic.twitter.com/FUSwHuQezL— Tay Anderson (@TayAndersonCO) March 27, 2021
Anderson also appeared at a March 28 press conference to refute the accusation.
The DPS Board of Education on which he sits issued a statement of its own. After stressing that DPS "honors and values the voices of individuals who courageously bring forward reports or allegations of sexual misconduct," the statement noted: "The Board has confirmed that there is no pending criminal investigation or charge. Director Anderson has released a public statement. The Board currently has no information other than what was stated in BLM5280’s post on social media."
In contrast, the school board definitely documented the May 2018 investigation of Anderson. In a letter obtained by Westword, a designated employee compliance officer wrote that a complaint submitted on April 13 of that year "has been fully investigated. After careful consideration of the evidence, I have concluded that Tay Anderson violated DPS Board Policy GBA as it relates to retaliation."
What happened next? Anderson doesn't go into specifics, but in his statement to Westword, he emphasizes that "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."
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