Former San Francisco School Board Vice President Alison Collins filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and five board members who voted to oust her as Vice President last week over racist tweets that resurfaced last week, claiming a total of $87 million in damages.
In mid-March, Recall SF School Board, a group currently leading an effort to recall several top school board members including Collins, uncovered a series of tweets from 2016 that Collins had sent out. In the tweets, Collins said that Asian Americans had “used white supremacist thinking to assimilate to 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.”
Do they think they won't be deported? profiled? beaten? Being a house n****r is still being a n****r. You're still considered "the help."
— Alison Collins 高勵思 (@AliMCollins) December 4, 2016
With the tweets resurfacing at a time when violence against Asian Americans growing and becoming a national issue, especially in San Francisco, a city with a 34% Asian American population that has seen some of the worst anti-Asian attacks, they quickly went viral. Within 24 hours, many prominent lawmakers, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed and fellow school board members Jenny Lam and Faauuga Moliga, were calling for Collins to resign.
Despite Collins giving apologies and finding a few supporters herself, most notably school board president Gabriela Lopez, things quickly came to a head last week, with the school board announcing a special meeting that week to decide her fate. Last Thursday, the board voted 5-2 in a no confidence vote to strip Collins of her VP title, all leadership and committee positions, and essentially made her a lame duck.
While the situation had been slowly calming down in the city since the vote last Thursday, Collins’ lawsuit announcement on Wednesday thrust the Tweet scandal back into the spotlight.
In the suit, Collins V. San Francisco Unified School District, et. all, Collins is claiming that her Constitutional rights, including free speech and two due process deprivations under the fourteenth amendment, were violated by her removal.
“Instead of taking actions to protect Black and Brown children from racist harassment and racist bullying, defendants opted to ‘burn’ the messenger, using a pretzel-twisted redirection of Ms. Collins’ seasoned social metaphors,” claims the lawsuit.
She is also seeking a grand total of $87 million in damages. $12 million in general damages is being claimed against the SFUSD, with $15 million plus $3 million in punitive damages being claimed against each of the five commissioners who voted against her – Lam, Moliga, Matt Alexander, Kevin Boggess, and Mark Sanchez.
In addition to the $87 million, Collins also wants to be restored to Vice President, wants all of her leadership positions back, and wants an apology that ensures that her tweets were misunderstood and not racist.
“I am a Black woman, I am a mother, I am an educator,” said Collins on Wednesday. “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.”
More San Francisco lawmakers speak out against Collins following lawsuit announcement
However, Collins’ lawsuit has only united many San Franciscans against her on Wednesday and Thursday following the lawsuit, with prominent lawmakers from both parties coming out against her. Some reiterated the stances they made last week and have continued to call for her to resign, while others are joining now, noting that, with the lawsuit, she has shown herself to be more about caring for her rather than education or helping the city’s children.
“After years in politics, I thought I’d seen every inappropriate & self-absorbed thing a politician can do. I was wrong,” Tweeted Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “If Allison Collins even vaguely cares about educating San Francisco’s kids, she’ll stop suing the school district & her colleagues for $100M & instead resign.”
After years in politics, I thought I’d seen every inappropriate & self-absorbed thing a politician can do.
I was wrong.
If Allison Collins even vaguely cares about educating San Francisco’s kids, she’ll stop suing the school district & her colleagues for $100M & instead resign. https://t.co/Li5SyuXwkr
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) April 1, 2021
Many experts noted that the lawsuit is only having an adverse affect on Collins.
“She was hoping that, with the lawsuit, she could get her positions back and show that a woman of color can’t be put down like that,” explained San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke to the Globe on Thursday. “But it’s having the opposite effect. She does have her supporters, enough for a rally yesterday, but to many the lawsuit just showed her true colors and that she values money over the children of San Francisco.”
“Most elected officials know with a scandal all the different things you can do, but Collins just 100% fought against it and only gave a few apologies as damage control. She could have reached out to Asian American organizations, spoke out more against violence against them, a number of different things. You hit that bump in the road, you recover, you continue the best you can. You don’t switch to reverse and go over the same bump.”
“Most telling are who the politicians are now against her on this. You have right wing Republicans standing in line with left wing Democrats like Senator Wiener and Mayor Breed. If you managed to unite such opposite political lawmakers against you, you have definitely screwed up somewhere.”
“I can’t speak to the lawsuit itself, like give an over-under, but based on how many lawmakers and community members that are now against her, it doesn’t look great for Collins right now.”
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, is expected to be heard later this year.
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