Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Tay Anderson must resign now

Written by on June 1, 2021

Around 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Denver Public Schools board member and BLM leader Tay Anderson announced he is “stepping back from everyday board functions until the completion of the independent investigation” into grave, new sexual assault allegations against him.  The new allegations come two months after the group BLM5280 accused him of past sexual assaults.

On KNUS radio about an hour beforehand, I suggested Anderson “should recuse himself from further school board business for the time being while this investigation is underway.”  Soon after, Anderson released his statement, in which he also denied the allegations.

My call for recusal followed an extensive interview with Darcy Schoening, who runs The Colorado Herald website, detailing explosive allegations that 62 teenagers are victims of sexual harassment and assault by Anderson ranging from unwanted touching to brutal rape. Schoening has spoken extensively with Tay’s most recent public accuser, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming. 

Brooks Fleming testified at the legislature on SB21-88, the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, asserting DPS has a sexual predator in its midst and had heretofore refused to do anything meaningful about it.  On May 27, after Schoening posted an article on The Colorado Herald naming Anderson as the alleged perpetrator, DPS finally filed a police report.

Brooks Fleming alleges the victims include 61 current students and one recent graduate, including one victim as young as 14 who required stitches after she was raped.    But the assault allegations get even more shocking. 

As told by Schoening, a student first approached Brooks Fleming in June of last year.  That student expressed abject fear of Anderson for sexually assaulting her and for his subsequent intimidation.  The teen asked for Brooks Fleming’s protection.

Brooks Fleming says that by August, dozens of alleged teen victims had shared similar stories with her — fears of reprisal by Anderson and pleas for protection.  Two had come to her after being so brutally raped, she says, that they required medical attention and stitches. 

According to several alleged victims, Brooks Fleming says, Anderson threatened students by saying, “I’ll find you anywhere.”  Given their immigration status, the alleged victims were terrified. 

Some have asked, “Why didn’t anyone speak out sooner?”  Sixty-one of the 62 alleged victims are undocumented students who did not want to report to the police for fear of being reported to ICE and deported.  Brooks Fleming wasn’t going to violate their trust in her.

(Mayor Hancock, Gov. Polis, Rep. DeGette and/or U.S. Sens. Hickenlooper or Bennet should clearly reaffirm what is already the case in writing: no child who comes forward, or their families, will be reported to ICE for doing so.)

Moreover, the alleged victims have witnessed Anderson use his platforms to intimidate adults into doing his bidding.  They watched DPS refuse to take any allegations seriously for months.  Why shouldn’t they fear his intimidation?

DPS has apparently been aware for some time of certain allegations by students against Anderson.  Fed up with what she saw as DPS inaction, Brooks Fleming decided that her only way to force action here would be to testify. 

DPS finally launched an independent investigation on April 6.  The district apparently had not filed a police report until last week.  Advocates are understandably concerned that the school district has utterly failed its students in how they’ve conducted the investigation.

Make no mistake: While investigations must be completed, these allegations are serious.  Anderson isn’t just an “activist.”  He is a member of the board of the state’s largest school district.  He is in a position of power and trust over the biggest part of DPS students’ lives: school.   

Plus, Brooks Fleming’s advocacy here lends credibility.  She is heavily involved in and a financier of BLM and other sympathetic groups.  An early backer of Anderson, Brooks Fleming has every reason not to fabricate such an expansive story.

Given all this, there are growing demands for Tay Anderson to resign outright.  Most notably, while prominent Democrats remain quiet on Colorado Democrats’ “2020 Rising Star,” the Colorado High School Democrats powerfully and courageously called for his resignation on Sunday. 

Anderson should resign.  When I pressed for his recusal from board matters on KNUS, rather than his outright resignation, I had concluded he wouldn’t resign.  I reasoned that stepping back would strengthen the case for that eventually, empower the investigation, keep him away from children and, given the gravity of the allegations, distance him from board matters, policy or hiring decisions.

Unfortunately, Anderson’s actual recusal falls short.  The board clarified in a statement he “will continue to vote on necessary matters before the Board including the hiring of a new superintendent.”  In his selfish statement using his own protection as basis for recusal, Anderson also says he doesn’t want to be “a distraction to the important work of Denver Public Schools or the important investigation.”

By having anything to do with board activities during the investigation — especially voting on its next superintendent — Tay Anderson IS a distraction.  Moreover, by condoning his participation in board meetings and votes, every other board member is complicit in the “intimidation of witnesses” they say “is not tolerated.”  They are effectively putting Anderson’s voice above the voices of DPS students who claim to be victims of his assaults.

Meanwhile, the board ought to strip Anderson of his title as secretary and insist he recuse himself altogether.  Anything less is a brutal failure to each and every child in the district.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s June 1 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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