District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. dismissed an $87 million lawsuit filed by controversial San Francisco school board member Alison Collins on Monday, ending her case in which she said her free speech rights had been denied by the San Francisco School Board earlier this year.
Collins’ contentious lawsuit began in March following the resurfacing of racist tweets made by then-School Board Vice President Collins several years beforehand. Among the tweets she sent out said that Asian Americans had “used white supremacist thinking to assimilate get ahead,” compared Asian Americans to “House n——s”, and said that she was looking to “combat anti-black racism in the Asian community” at her daughters’ “mostly Asian Am school.”
I'm looking to combat anti-black racism in the Asian community at at my daughters' mostly Asian Am school.
— Alison Collins 高勵思 (@AliMCollins) December 4, 2016
While she did apologize, many prominent San Francisco politicians, including Mayor London Breed and Assemblymen David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), called for her resignation.
“We are outraged and sickened by the racist, anti-Asian statements tweeted by School Board Vice President Alison Collins that recently came to light,” said Breed, Chiu, Ting, and other city leaders in a joint statement calling for Collins’ resignation in March. “No matter the time, no matter the place, and no matter how long ago the tweets were written, there is no place for an elected leader in San Francisco who is creating and/or created hate statements and speeches.”
The backlash over her tweets made national news, flooding Collins with even more calls to resign from many angered parents in the city. Other school board members quickly called a vote to strip Collins of all her titles and power.
The very next week, the San Francisco School Board voted 5-2 on a no confidence resolution against Collins, stripping her of her vice presidency and her position on all committees for the rest of her term.
Outraged over losing her leadership positions, Collins sued the School Board in return within a matter of days, filing a lawsuit against the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the five board members who voted against her, for a total of $87 million in damages.
In Collins V. San Francisco Unified School District, et. all, Collins claimed that her Constitutional rights, including free speech and two due process deprivations under the Fourteenth Amendment, were violated by her removal. In addition to the $87 million in damages, Collins also wanted to be restored as Vice President, wanted her leadership positions back, and wanted an apology from the board that cleared her of any accusations of racism.
“I am a Black woman, I am a mother, I am an educator,” said Collins in late March. “All of these legacies mean that I have no choice but to fight. I have been the focus of a targeted smear campaign to label me as a racist.”
While the suite lingered for the rest of the spring and into summer, it did help recall efforts against Collins and other members of the School Board, with many petition signers naming Collins’ tweets as a major reason why they were signing.
Collins’ lawsuit thrown out
Finally, on Monday, three days before the case was scheduled to go before the Federal District Court of Northern District of California in San Francisco, Judge Gilliam threw the case out. Judge Gilliam noted that Collins did not explain adequately how her removal had been a violation of federal law and also noted that she had not given any facts to support her case. The additional injunction filed by Collins asking for her old position and duties to be restored to her was also denied.
“Nowhere in her complaint does Plaintiff allege facts supporting this legal conclusion,” said Judge Gilliam Monday. “And Plaintiff does not explain in her opposition how the resolution that removed her from her position as Vice President constitutes an ongoing violation of federal law. While the Court is required to construe Plaintiff’s allegations in the light most favorable to her, the Court cannot find that this unsupported legal conclusion is adequate to plead an ongoing violation of federal law.”
While Judge Gilliam’s ruling does allow Collins to amend her complaint against the board members and appeal the ruling, experts say that it is highly unlikely that she would do so.
“The Judge pretty much said that Collins has no basis for the lawsuit,” San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke told the Globe Monday. “That is pretty definitive. Collins knows she is now essentially a lame duck. Her options are now fight the lawsuit with an appeal, which would likely not amount to anything. Another is serve out her term and hope the recall doesn’t happen against her and the other board members, possibly fighting that. Or she can fight to keep her board seat in reelection. But no matter what she chooses to do, she is going to need to give a lot to make it happen.”
The San Francisco School Board and Board member Collins have not responded to the ruling as of Monday afternoon.
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