DPS rally 6-10-21

Around 20 people gathered at Denver City Hall Thursday evening to demand the Denver Public Schools to issue new diplomas without Director Tay Anderson's name, a statement from the school board urging him to resign and to take action against allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Six speakers at Thursday night's Denver Public Schools Board of Education called to demand action by the board members in regard to recent allegations against Director Tay Anderson.

The individuals spoke during the board's public comment period. All said they were former students, parents and even current educators within the district. 

"Every action you take or don't take is sending a message to this community," said Michelle Castro, a parent. "It's been hard to not point the finger at all of you in blame and clump you all in with Tay Anderson's bad behaviors."

Anderson who was elected to the board in 2019, came under fire in March after sexual misconduct allegations were reported by BlackLivesMatter5280. 

More recently, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming testified in front of a legislative committee that an unnamed DPS employee had sexually assaulted 61 current students and one former student.

The board later acknowledge it learned the allegations were against Anderson. He has denied all allegations.

Prior to Thursday's meeting, the board issued a statement from six of the seven board members regarding the investigation into Anderson's alleged actions and a student protest being held outside the City and County Building before the board's meeting. 

"The most important action we can take is to protect the integrity of the investigation and make no judgements on its outcome until it's complete," the statement read.

"When we have the facts from a fair and thorough investigation, the Board is committed to acting as quickly as possible, within the constraints of the Board policy and state law."

Investigation LawGroup was hired in early April to investigation the allegations and so far DPS has spent $50,000 on the investigation. The investigation is expected to be finished by the end of the summer, according to the statement. 

Although the board has acknowledged the allegations and investigation Thursday, many of the students and parents attending the protest felt it wasn't enough.

"How much longer are they gonna wait until they do something?" said Gigi Gordon, a recent North High School graduate and organizer of Thursday's demonstration. "I mean do they care more about this man's reputation and his career more than our lives and our safety at our school?"

Gordon was one of about 20 people in attendance at the demonstration and made several demands, including that the district issuing new diplomas to each 2021 graduate without Anderson's name on it, the board urging Anderson to resign and for the board to take action.

The Denver Police Department has said it is aware of the allegations, but no victims have come forward. 

Valerie Boutwell, a recent DSST Byers High School graduate, said that, from her past experience, she believes fear is keeping the alleged victims from coming forward.

"I think it's a scary thing to do, especially when it's a board official," Boutwell said.

"It was terrifying for me to go forward to the police about someone who went to school with me, so I can't imagine trying to come forward about someone within the district." 

DPS officials, including Kristin Bailey, the district's equity and safety counsel and Title IX coordinator, came to the demonstration to offer information about the district's discrimination prevention and response policies. 

However, their presence was unwelcome, said some parents and students, including Gordon.

"This is exactly what the district will do when you as a student try to tell them that you feel scared, and that you feel that no one is going to protect you," Gordon yelled to the crowd. "They send people out here to make you feel more scared, and even more like nobody cares ... it's just mind blowing."

Anderson recently stepped back from an active role as a director on the board, but said he plans to return in August. 

Priscilla Shaw, a middle school teacher in the district, said Anderson's return could be potentially dangerous as it could threaten the learning environment.

"Every child should feel safe and trust all adults, including elected board members," Shaw said. "Students will not feel safe unless they believe that the adults around the are empowered to take action when students report an unacceptable behavior or patterns of grooming rather than waiting until these patterns culminate in a criminal act."

Michael Diaz-Rivera said the board and community need to start listening to one another and the student's voices need to be heard.

"It's time to create a real community and listen to people, listen to our teachers, listen to our students, listen to community and be in tune with what's really going on," Diaz-Rivera said.

"DPS is silencing their students by not addressing their concerns about the allegations. Silence is violence, period. It's important that youth demands are made a priority."