Denver School Board kicks off with a protest of the Pledge of Allegiance and a bid for inclusion

As expected.
3 min. read
Tay Anderson was the only Denver School Board member not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, Jan. 23, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Tay Anderson, Denver Public Schools' newly elected board member, announced last month that he would not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance during the body's meetings. He fulfilled that promise on Thursday night, accompanied by much of the room

He was the only board member not to rise as members of John F. Kennedy High School's JROTC held the American flag at the front of the room.

That symbolic move was just the beginning of a string of others for him and his backers during the meeting. During the board's time to present resolutions, he and his colleagues passed resolutions in support of "LGBTQIA+ Inclusion," gun storage safety and state legislation that would allow students younger than 18 to vote in school board races.

Speaking from his seat about the LGBTQIA measure, Anderson made clear his interests went beyond sending a message to the school district.

"To the President of the United States of America," he said, "in Denver we believe that love always trumps hate."

Though many stood during the Pledge, there was no apparent reaction to those who chose not to.

A large section of the audience did not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at the Denver School Board's meeting on Jan. 23, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Ryan Riley poses for a portrait during the Denver School Board's meeting on Jan. 23, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Ryan Riley, one who stood, said he supported Anderson's decision to do what he believed was right. Riley is a veteran Army officer who said he stood because that's what he was taught to do.

"Vets are there to make sure people can do what they want to do," he said. "I'm from a place where I take people as they are."

Kevante Hobley graduated from the district last year and chose not to stand. He said he heard about Anderson's stance, but he was sitting during Pledges long before Anderson made his announcement.

"I don't feel represented by the flag," he said. "It's not for the people of color that struggle every day."

Hobley said the resolutions Anderson championed at the meeting were connected to their act of resistance, and that meant the school board is closer than the flag to representing his interests.

"He stands for the same thing that I do," Hobley said of Anderson. "He's helping bring representation of people of color, queer people. He's brought us together, honestly."

The Denver School Board meets, Jan. 23, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Jessica Chauvin, Anderson's campaign field officer, went to the meeting to show her support. She said his presence there was meaningful, not just because of the support in the room, but because of the harsh criticisms he's received online.

"He has recieved a lot of threats," she said. "I see more than a lot of people do, and it's a lot worse than a lot of people know."

Anderson, one of the youngest Coloradans to be elected to office, read some hate mail with Colorado Matters' Ryan Warner earlier this month.

Chauvin said Anderson is steeled for his course forward, regardless.

"I of course deeply worry about these threats," she said. "The thing is, he's not gonna back down, and he shouldn't, and this is exactly why we should step up."

Before the meeting, Denverite asked Anderson if he had any feelings about sitting during the pledge.

"Nope," he said before walking off to greet friends and supporters. "It's gonna happen in 10 minutes."

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