As anticipated, Denver’s school board gave its resident social-media predator and online lecher — Tay Anderson — a free pass on Friday. The “censure” approved by the board 6-1 is of course toothless and can be expected to have exactly zero impact on Anderson himself.
The first-term board member’s relentless self-promotion and glib, noisy activism — on issues with little if any connection to his school board duties — will continue. And while that is easy enough to tune out, his much more troubling track record of trolling for teen companionship in the virtual space points to a habit that a mere censure won’t help kick.
The censure served only to give board members cover for their months-long silence on the allegations swirling around their peer — and for their failure on Friday to demand his resignation for his repugnant behavior.
Independent investigators released an alarming, 96-page report last week. While the inquiry was unable to corroborate stunning sexual assault allegations made against Anderson last spring, it confirmed startling allegations that amount to sexual harassment of students and others. In one case, it involved a 16-year-old Denver high schooler. In another case, it was a 17-year-old attending Douglas County Schools. Anderson’s history of harassment goes back further, to his work several years ago with an activist group whose members he treated similarly. Anderson himself more or less corroborated the incidents for investigators.
A joint statement by the board earlier last week, as well as individual comments by some board members at Friday’s meeting, paid lip service to addressing the report’s deeply disturbing findings. But lacking meaningful action, the words were hollow.
Like the censure vote itself, Anderson’s defiant declaration to the news media on Friday that he won’t resign — the board does not have the power to remove him — was expected. So was his by-now-ritual insistence that the censure, as well as the investigation, were ginned up because he is Black. Never mind how many of his victims were the same race.
What was actually noteworthy was the pathetic performance of his fellow board members leading up to Friday’s vote. It was a study in spinelessness. Incredibly, some members seemed almost apologetic about even voting to censure him.
Worst of all had to be board Vice President Jennifer Bacon, declaring Anderson has, ”been through the wringer and treated unfairly.”
Through the wringer? The board for the most part ignored the allegations during the several months leading up to the report’s release. In that time, Anderson not only was allowed to, as he put it, step “back” from his board duties rather than step down, but he also was able to cast a vote in favor of hiring the district’s new superintendent. He retained the powers and prestige of board membership while getting a little R&R time — in which he didn’t have to answer bothersome questions about, you know, all that sexual-misconduct stuff.
And at Friday’s meeting, Bacon assured Anderson, ”I do not think you should be removed from the board, but I do think you need to be held accountable and know the boundaries.” As if she were addressing a second-grader caught wandering the halls during a bathroom break.
Little better was Board President Carrie Olson, who said she voted for the censure with “a very heavy heart.” Though she acknowledged the findings on Anderson show a “disturbing pattern” — and that his behavior “tarnishes the integrity and ethical standards of the school board” — she said she doesn’t believe Anderson should resign.
Instead, she said, “he needs to learn from this experience.”
Oh, good grief.
There also were board members who didn’t even stick their necks out that far. Like Scott Baldermann, who stayed far from the limelight throughout the months of controversy over Anderson. As Gazette columnist Jimmy Sengenberger reported in June, Baldermann, a wealthy entrepreneur, contributed $10,000 to Anderson’s campaign for his board seat in 2019.
While Baldermann maintains a low profile on the board in general, he may be especially reluctant to speak out about Anderson — given his own role in getting him elected.
Just about the only board member who came close to telling it like it really is was Angela Cobián, who at one point during Friday’s proceedings said Anderson “does not merit a seat on this board.”
Since no board member was willing to say it, we will: Anderson’s continued presence on the board is a disgrace. This is a gross embarrassment for the state’s largest school district, which is setting a horrendous precedent for all other districts. The failure to demand Anderson’s immediate resignation from the board is an insult to all of Denver Public Schools’ stakeholders. Those include the district’s many dedicated educators; the community’s civic leaders who have endeavored for years to improve Denver’s schools — and above all, parents and students.
Tay Anderson has got to go. Not because of his posturing; his showboating; his rabble rousing; his race baiting — though all have grown tedious in his short tenure. It’s because of his predatory behavior toward students. It is outrageous and unacceptable. Anderson should quit while he’s behind. It’s time for him to get off the board — and get help for his problems.