Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | Tay is back — and as unfit to serve as ever

Written by on July 16, 2021

If there was ever a clear case why Tay Anderson is unfit to be a Denver Public Schools board member, it was made plain Wednesday at a press conference where he triumphantly declared his return to board duties. The announcement came 14 weeks after DPS launched an independent investigation into sexual assault allegations against him and roughly six weeks after he recused himself from board matters after voting for superintendent.

“I am going to finish my term until 2023,” he said Wednesday, flanked by his attorney and supporters. He quickly pivoted: “We will talk about suicide, depression, but I want to be able to be here today to let our students in Denver that are watching this know, we are making a commitment to make sure that we have the necessary tools to prevent suicide among young people in the city and county of Denver.”

Anderson read an excerpt from an open letter to his colleagues, which informed them he’s returning to “full duties,” telling viewers he “began contemplating taking my own life” on May 29. Toward the end of his prepared remarks, Anderson added, “Finally, after almost taking my own life, I have a commitment of doing everything in my power to strengthen our suicide prevention tools.”

As I’ve written and spoken about, I won an eight-year battle with clinical depression and anxiety. I almost took my own life on December 31, 2013. I took medication until late-2018. The struggles of mental health and suicide are real, serious and important. I’ve lost family to suicide.

If it’s true Anderson had suicidal thoughts, I understand and feel bad. However, when you’re on a school board — whereby children’s safety is your responsibility — you don’t get to make it about yourself. Yet, Anderson managed to do exactly that.

He first brought up suicidal thoughts two weeks ago in a webshow interview, then he started his press conference remarks talking about it. This feels like a strategy to manipulate the public’s emotions, create sympathy for himself and divert attention from the needs of DPS children. No elected official should ever use suicide as a tool for political advantage.

Secondly, Anderson argued DPS’s independent investigation has lasted too long and “has drifted into vastly new areas, including a period of time when I was not even an adult, an employee of DPS or an elected member of the DPS Board.”

Make no mistake: Anderson’s premature return to “full duties” was a premeditated reversal. In early June, he pledged to recuse himself until the investigation concludes, even mentioning “August.” But back on June 16, his attorney was already emailing DPS lawyers: “Director Anderson and I are requesting to be provided with all zoom links for any meetings, work sessions, and retreats for the remainder of the month. He will determine at a later date, and with his counsel, if he will begin attending these meetings.”

Anderson crafted this narrative for weeks, but he doesn’t get to dictate the terms of the investigation. This isn’t about Tay’s Timetable. After the initial accusations against him, new allegations arose involving sixty-two alleged student victims. It would be malpractice for DPS not to follow additional claims involving DPS students. He says he wants to “take accountability,” but Anderson persists in influencing the investigation. The fact that an elected school board member — with a fiduciary responsibility over children — doesn’t understand all this demonstrates that he is unfit.

Egregiously, this all aligns with how he and his allies have conducted themselves for months. The presser and open letter are visibly chilling to anyone who might come forward. Consider this:

1. Investigations are still underway, yet Anderson holds a widely-covered press conference declaring victory.

2. His attorney claims they have “not been given any updates from the investigators,” yet Anderson claims “no credible evidence” or victims have come forward. He says DPS’s investigation doesn’t fit Tay’s timetable. So, he’s back.

3. Alleged teenaged victims see this and resign themselves: “Tay’s back already. He’s celebrating. It must be over.”

Anderson — who was himself found in violation of DPS policy for online retaliation — gave a platform to 45-year-old Hashim Coates. Coates has publicly and viciously bullied 18-year-old Gigi Gordon, the DPS graduate who’s led protests against the district. On Facebook, he compared Gigi to the Columbine killers and called her “the lil lying ass racist.” He commented on Gigi’s Facebook, “I and director Auontai Anderson wait for an apology and we’ll see you in court.”

At the press conference, Coates made everything about race. “White supremacy is active in the Black community,” he proclaimed. “Even if it is a Black organization such as BLM5280 or other Black leaders.” And Black Coloradans who do not defend Tay Anderson are “sellouts.” Coates got contentious and aggressive with a female reporter when she simply asked about those assertions.

Anderson is all in on intimidation. That’s intolerable for a school board member. Shockingly, the feckless DPS Board is unwilling to decry Anderson’s antics. Based on DPS board statements Wednesday, they’re just fine with their colleague’s return. All things considered, perhaps he’s not the only board member who’s unfit to serve Denver’s children.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s July 16 column at The Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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