Tay Anderson protest: Denver students walk out to demand removal of school board member

More than 1,000 students walked out of class Monday to demand the removal of school board member Tay Anderson, who was censured last week after an investigation revealed “behavior unbecoming of a board member.”

Students from at least 14 schools marched to the Denver Public Schools’ downtown office, according to Chalkbeat Colorado, where several teens met with board members and the others stood outside chanting and waving signs with messages like, “we deserve to feel safe and supported.”

“Our students from across the district today told us that there has not been enough action to protect the safety and to send a message that this behavior by a board member is unacceptable,” Board of Education President Carrie Olson said at a press conference after the protest.

“They told us today that they were embarrassed and disappointed to see how director Anderson is responding to the censure by continuing to disparage and attack anyone who has concerns about his behavior towards students,” she said.

An independent investigation released last week was unable to substantiate the most serious allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Anderson, but found that he “engaged flirtatiously” with a 16-year-old student online last year before learning her age and made social media posts viewed as intimidating to witnesses.

The board on Friday voted 6-1 to censure Mr. Anderson, who was elected in 2019 at age 21. His was the only dissenting vote.

“We need for there to be no more disruptions to the precious learning time and board responsibilities that we have,” said board Vice President Jennifer Bacon. “In order for that to happen, as our students told us today, there needs to be more action and more accountability.”

School officials agreed Monday to include students in the process of drawing up a code of conduct for board members, including their social-media posts.

Ms. Bacon added that “we hope director Anderson will help in that process and not provoke and disparage anyone who has concerns with his behavior.”

In a Monday statement, Mr. Anderson blamed the board and the media for stoking the student unrest.

“The ILG investigation clearly stated that there was no evidence to substantiate the sexual assault allegations that initially launched this investigation,” said the statement, which he posted on his Twitter account.

Mr. Anderson said he is  “saddened that the media and the School Board have perpetuated false narratives that have implied otherwise, resulting in our students’ feeling unsafe.”

Mr. Anderson said at the Friday meeting that the censure “reeks of anti-Blackness and rooted in systems that uphold White supremacy.”
Both he and Ms. Bacon are Black.

He also said he would hold a community meeting Monday aimed at “unifying a divided district.”

The report also found that Mr. Anderson made overtures to a 17-year-old Douglas County student in 2018, inviting her to go stargazing or have a sleepover, which she said made her feel “extremely uncomfortable.”

That exchange happened before he was elected to the board.

Black Lives Matter 5280 had contacted the board about an accusation of sexual assault made by unnamed woman against Mr. Anderson, which the investigation did not corroborate and which he has denied.

Also unsubstantiated was a Denver parent’s claim at a state legislative hearing that Mr. Anderson had committed sexual misconduct against 62 students, most of them immigrants.

Ms. Olson said the board does not have the authority to remove members, and that such a decision would be left to the voters.

His term ends in 2023.

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