On Tuesday, former San Francisco School Board Vice President Alison Collins withdrew her $87 million lawsuit against the Board, shortly after school board recall supporters turned in enough petition signatures to ensure a recall election against several current members in the coming months.
In March, old tweets of then-VP Collins came to light through school board recall supporters. In the 2016 tweets, Collins wrote numerous racist and anti-Asian American messages, including saying that Asian Americans had “used white supremacist thinking to assimilate get ahead,” comparing Asian Americans to “House n——s”, and stating 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
The tweets immediately caused controversy throughout the city. While Collins did have some defenders, such as School Board President Gabriela Lopez, many more came out against her. Mayor London Breed, Assemblymen David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), together with numerous other lawmakers, including several other Board members, called on Collins to either be demoted or to outright resign from her position. Collins refused, and only days later the Board voted 5-2 in a no confidence vote, stripping her of her Vice Presidency and all Committee positions.
This led Collins to sue the School District, as well as the 5 Board members who voted against her, for $87 million in District Court. During the next several months, while the lawsuit languished in Court, the recall movement against Collins, Lopez, and fellow Board member Faauuga Moliga quickly grew.
A growing number of San Franciscans upset over many Board decisions, ranging from the Board refusing to reopen schools following lockdown lifts to a massive failed school renaming plan fueled signature gathering against them. Collins’ tweets, punishment, and ensuing lawsuit, while not the main reason for discontentment against the Board, also helped drive more to sign. By July, it was becoming clear that a recall in San Francisco against them was becoming likely.
In August, District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jt. dismissed Collins’ lawsuit, finding that her first and fourteenth amendment rights had not been infringed. The lawsuit was still active for a possible appeal throughout the month. All the while, the recall movement grew more and more. By late August, all three candidates had well over the 51,325 signatures needed to go on the ballot, but under the 70,000 set as the goal in case of invalid signatures. By the time September hit, that goal had been reached.
An all but confirmed recall, a dropped lawsuit
On Tuesday, recall supporters, led by organizers Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, turned in over 81,200 signatures, well above even conservative estimates on how many were needed to trigger a recall election against the three board members.
“Today we delivered enough (& more) signatures to recall Commissioners Lopez, Collins & Moliga,” said Recall SF School Board in a tweet on Tuesday. “Today we ensured the voice of the people resounds loud and clear through City Hall. Today we launched a revolution to put students first in our public education system. Thank you SF!”
Today we delivered enough (& more) signatures to recall Commissioners Lopez, Collins & Moliga.
Today we ensured the voice of the people resounds loud and clear through City Hall.
Today we launched a revolution to put students first in our public education system.
Thank you SF! pic.twitter.com/Mxe0EX2Bzo
— Recall SF School Board (@recallsfboe) September 7, 2021
With a recall election now almost certain pre-signature verification, Collins withdrew her lawsuit within hours of the signature turn-in announcement.
“It’s hard to beat a recall against you if you yourself are actively suing the very same entity voters want you gone from,” explained San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke to the Globe on Tuesday. “Withdrawing made sense politically. There’s now an election coming up for their jobs, and that lawsuit was the last thing they needed. It will be very much brought up during the recall campaign though. Those against the recall would be stupid not to bring that up.”
“A lot of San Franciscans are fed up with the Board, and they have been getting a lot of sympathy across the state. Usually when San Francisco does something like this they call us one of the usual insults and say how bad it is here, but this time around other Californians have been a lot more empathetic with the people living here because the Board has been seen as hurting the futures of students and tarnishing the history of the city. A lot of people are on the same page now, and with Newsom’s recall and many others possibly coming up, this may bring a lot of change.”
The recall election of the three SF School Board members currently does not have a set date, with many expecting the election to take place either in late 2021 or early 2022.