Denver Public Schools appears to have paid hush money to prevent board VP from suing, newly released document reveals

Colorado’s largest school district secretly signed an agreement with its board vice president to prevent him from suing.

The revelation comes after the district released a copy of the…

Colorado’s largest school district secretly signed an agreement with its board vice president to prevent him from suing.

The revelation comes after the district released a copy of the settlement agreement Monday, thanks to legal pressure from attorneys representing Chalkbeat and The Denver Post.

The agreement was never intended to be made public.

“The Parties will not release a copy of this Agreement in response to any request under the Colorado Open Records Act, unless required to do so by a court order,” one line reads, according to Chalkbeat.

The settlement agreed to pay school board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson $3,500 out of the school board budget.

In return, Anderson agreed not to sue DPS for “damages, costs, or expenses” from a 2021 investigation over sexual misconduct allegations against him.  

The school district hired ILG Legal Services to investigate.  

While most claims were unsubstantiated, the investigation found that Anderson had engaged in actions unbecoming of a board member, including inappropriate communication with a 16-year-old student. 

“Director Anderson has maintained and developed relationships with students, both while running for and while seated on the Board of Education,” the investigation concluded. “He has used social media as one tool to do this. Given his role as a School Board member, and the important mentorship and role modeling part of the job, such communications are not, in and of themselves, inappropriate. However, we found two instances of communication with high school girls that were objectively flirtatious.” 

Invoices show the district paid the investigating firm at least $105,449, according to Chalkbeat.  

Following the investigation, the board voted 6 to 1 to censure Anderson.  

“You have not been convicted of a crime,” Vice President Jennifer Bacon said, according to Chalkbeat. “But I hope that you learn and know what is acceptable for what you can control and do with your own hands and mouth. 

“I do not think you should be removed from the board, but I do think you should be held accountable and know the limits of your behavior.” 

But Anderson argued he didn’t violate the board’s conduct policy, claiming the allegations were racially motivated. 

“This is unprecedented, and it reeks of anti-Blackness and is rooted in systems that uphold white supremacy,” Anderson said, according to Chalkbeat.  

Although Anderson filed defamation lawsuits against several people who made the allegations, he said he didn’t file suit against DPS. 

He also claimed the money received from DPS was a reimbursement for his out-of-pocket expenses for representation during the ILG investigation. In return, Anderson agreed “not to seek reimbursement or other payment through any process of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education.” 

The secrecy is part of a pattern of recent district behavior, critics say. 

In March, the school board held a closed-door meeting to address security concerns following a shooting at East High School, then refused to release the recording to the public.  

Chalkbeat and the Denver Post sued DPS for violating state law by making policy decisions in a closed meeting and not properly declaring an executive session.  

In July, District Court Judge Andrew Luxen ordered DPS to release the video recording. DPS appealed the judge’s decision but later agreed to release the video after community members began questioning what the board was hiding. 

The recording revealed the board members fretted about blame for removing school resource officers, as well as their political and professional futures. 

In August, DPS also refused Chalkbeat’s request for a report following the investigation of a principal, Kurt Dennis, for directing students to seclusion rooms without proper supervision.