Independent investigators could not substantiate claims that Denver Public Schools board member Tay Anderson committed sexual assault, but he may be censured for conduct unbecoming of a school board member.
The investigation found that Anderson engaged in flirtatious social media contact with a 16-year-old DPS student after he was elected a board member and posted threatening social media messages during the investigation.
Evidence collected during the nearly six-month long investigation by Investigations Law Group showed that Anderson, 23, stopped communicating with the 16-year-old DPS student after learning her age, the 96-page report says.
However, investigators found that “it was more likely than not” that in 2018, before Anderson was a board member, he made unwelcome sexual comments and advances toward members and associates of the board of directors of Never Again Colorado, a student organization at University of Denver.
MORE: Read the full report by Investigations Law Group, here.
Anderson was elected to the DPS board in 2019. A 2017 graduate of Manual High School, Anderson was employed as a paraprofessional at Manual High School and a restorative practice coordinator at Denver North High School, but the report did not find evidence that there was any connection between his work for the district and his behavior as the head of Never Again Colorado.
Investigators found two instances in which Anderson was “objectively flirtatious” with two high school girls over social media. In 2018, when a then-20-year-old Anderson was running for his seat on the Board of Education, he messaged a 17-year-old girl who was then a senior at a Douglas County high school, asking her on dates, the report says.
Investigators could not find evidence that he sexually assaulted 62 DPS students, as alleged by a district parent in testimony to state lawmakers in May.
The report raised questions about the credibility of the parent, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming, noting that she “did not volunteer specific or corroborating information in her statements.”
DPS board members will meet Friday to consider a censure of Anderson, according to a statement from the district.
“The report reveals behavior unbecoming of a board member,” the statement said. “As elected officials, we must hold ourselves and each other to the highest standards in carrying out the best interests of the district. Director Anderson’s behavior does not meet those standards.”
Anderson has insisted he has never sexually assaulted anyone. Anderson met with investigators twice, with his attorney present, and answered every question he was asked regarding the allegations, the report says.
The report found that his conversations online with the 16-year-old girl and his two social media posts, which some witnesses may have perceived as threatening and discouraged some from coming forward with information, “implicated” Anderson’s integrity, the district’s high ethical standards and the obligation to act in the best interests of the DPS community.
Anderson responded to the report’s findings in a statement posted on Twitter. “I believe the most important message that can be conveyed at this time is that the finding of unsubstantiated claims against me is in no way a victory over survivors, but rather an opportunity to reconsider how we view and create not only restorative, but also transformative justice, for survivors, falsely accused and correctly convicted,” he said.
The heavily redacted report came after a nearly six-month long investigation into accusations against Anderson that cost the district $105,449.63, television station KDVR reported. Investigators interviewed 63 people and reviewed thousands of pages of evidence, according to the district.
The board appointed Investigations Law Group in April to look into the accusations.
Denver police began their own investigation into the claims of sexual misconduct and reached out to the law firm in June to ask for a meeting. The report stated that Denver police told the firm to stop its investigation and keep the police investigation under wraps until officers finished their interviews in early August.
The section about Anderson’s behavior as a DPS employee, before his time on the school board, and which references the DPD investigation, is heavily redacted. The school district’s statement said that the section “documents an investigation into student allegations under Title IX and these records cannot be provided under the Colorado Open Records Act.”
Investigators from the private firm found two instances in which Anderson was “objectively flirtatious” with two high school girls over social media. In 2018, when then-20-year-old Anderson was running for his seat on the Board of Education, he messaged a 17-year-old girl who was then a senior at a high school in Douglas County, asking her on dates, the report says.
The girl told investigators that he made her feel “extremely uncomfortable,” according to the report.
Anderson admitted to flirting with the girl, explaining that he was not aware that she had not yet graduated and that he did not remember asking her to spend the night at his home, the report says. Investigators were unable to find a copy of the conversation between the two as they were talking over Snapchat, an app that deletes conversations immediately.
Between July 2020 and August 2020, Anderson messaged a then-16-year-old student through Facebook and text message, asking the girl more than once if she lived with her parents or lived alone, the report stated.
He told investigators that once he found out the girl’s age he stopped communicating with her and admitted that he made a mistake by doing so.
In May, one day after a DPS parent who testified to state lawmakers, Anderson posted a photo to his private Facebook page that shows a cartoon character pointing a gun at Bugs Bunny with text: “Do it bitch.” The investigation was ongoing and the law firm was still trying to get witnesses to come forward, the report says. Anderson deleted the post after a few hours.
In July, he posted a “warning” to his Facebook page to people who have “engaged in conversation disparaging” his name, the report says.
“If you commented, liked a comment, made a post/tweet, or even a simple DM. I have your name, I won’t retaliate against you whatsoever. Here is the warning do not speak to me ever again. I will literally act like you do not exist,” Anderson said in the post, according to the report.
A statement from Anderson’s chief of staff, Tiffany Caudill, noted that Anderson will hold a press conference “in the coming days” after he reviews the report with his lawyer more thoroughly.
Anderson has said the allegations against him have “fractured” the DPS community, and the report released Wednesday shed light on the upheaval.
“Social media is replete with examples of ugly behavior between and among disagreeing camps in today’s charged climate,” investigators wrote. “This is particularly so with matters having racial, gender-based and political contexts. This is what has happened here.”