Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | ‘Investigation’ lets Tay thumb his nose at justice
Written by Jimmy at the Crossroads on August 6, 2021
On Tuesday, news broke that an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James concluded Gov. Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed and intimidated at least 11 women, including subordinates in his office. The complete report was provided to the state’s legislature and local authorities.
Fortunately for New Yorkers, their attorney general is obliged to publicly release her findings and provide them to law enforcement upon request. They also know there are possible consequences, including impeachment by the legislature. The AG is independently elected, meaning her investigation is genuinely independent from the governor’s office.
Contrast this with Denver Public Schools’ investigation into board member Tay Anderson concerning allegations of sexual assault, allegedly including over 60 DPS student victims. Denverites have no such assurances. Any hint of credibility for the “independent investigation” carried out by a firm the DPS board hired is now gone.
It’s hard to view the investigation as credible when the school board is investigating its own member while seemingly unconcerned about the severity of the allegations. The board hired Investigations Law Group (ILG) in April to investigate the Anderson allegations. Their work is not yet complete.
Although still the subject of an ongoing investigation, Anderson is already “back to work” after briefly “stepping back” from board votes and activities. He returned without any discernible pushback from his colleagues. The board fell back on a lack of “authority to suspend Director Anderson from his duties” and stressed how the “Board has taken no action that would prevent him from attending and participating in all the Board meetings in August.”
Even more, DPS’s new superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero, wasted no time holding a townhall with Anderson on July 24. Anderson decreed that no questions about the investigation would be permitted. “If you’re not okay with that, that is totally okay with us,” he said. “We’ll ask you just to step out if you cannot be a part of this fruitful conversation.” Anderson, with the superintendent by his side, told attendees they’d be ordered to leave if they dared ask about an ongoing investigation into Anderson.
DPS leadership isn’t taking this investigation seriously. Even the title of the townhall – “Let’s Get Back to Work” – rings like an endorsement from district leadership that it’s time to move past Anderson’s troubles.
Furthermore, DPS made no concerted effort to actively encourage witnesses, update parents or provide assurances to potential victims about their protection. No district-wide emails were sent early on or during the investigation updating parents or asking for tips. Rather, the board expressly relied on a few press releases on its website, tweets of those releases and a smattering of press reports.
In late June, an email went out to North High School parents – and only North parents – because Anderson had previously worked there. If DPS leadership cared about their students, they’d make every effort to encourage parental engagement. Instead, they make a mockery of the situation.
With these accusations, we’re talking about children, including alleged student victims who are purportedly undocumented. Yet the district hasn’t provided assurances to possible victims that they won’t be penalized or deported. Not a single DPS official has offered to assist with getting U-Visas to undocumented victims who might come forward.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann has been silent on such protections, too.
This is especially crucial given the active intimidation campaign undertaken by Anderson and his allies from the outset, as I’ve extensively documented in past columns.
Irrespective of the outcome of the ILG investigation, these accusations are significant. A responsible school district would at least wait for the investigation to finish before tolerating Anderson’s return to duty or their new superintendent joining Anderson at a town hall. Alas, DPS leadership is neither serious nor responsible.
How much confidence can and should DPS students, parents and teachers place in these proceedings since they are being discounted and disregarded by district leadership – even while still an active investigation? Since protections for alleged victims aren’t ensured by district leaders or the DA’s office? Since district outreach hasn’t been proactive?
That’s not all. ILG was hired to investigate in a “limited scope agreement.” Work product is “strictly confidential” under attorney-client privilege. According to the contract, signed by board chairwoman Dr. Carrie Olson, nothing must be provided to law enforcement or another third-party “unless compelled to do so by legal process,” i.e., a court-issued subpoena.
ILG will provide the board with a report and supporting information. That’s it. DPS will get their report. The board – with Anderson getting to vote – will decide what, if anything, to do with it.
Perhaps the starkest contrast between these investigations in New York and Denver is that DPS couldn’t really do anything with the results of the investigation, such as remove Anderson, even if they wanted to. Why would the district spend over $50,000 for an investigation they can do nothing about, they don’t even take seriously, and the public cannot trust?
The Tay Anderson investigation is only the most recent example of mismanagement of Colorado’s largest school district. It’s no wonder DPS predicted district-wide enrollment to decrease 6% (4,787 students) by 2025.