Board of Education member Alison Collins and her offending tweets. Photo courtesy of sfusd.edu

Alison Collins, the San Francisco school board member embroiled in controversy over past tweets, has filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Unified School District and all but one of her school board peers for purportedly infringing on her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

The suit was the work of three law firms; it incorporates biblical scripture and inspirational sayings throughout, and notably starts with the recitation of the famed Pastor Martin Niemöller quote regarding passivity in the face of Nazi atrocities.

The suit comes in the wake of the school board’s 5-2 no-confidence vote on March 25, stripping Collins of her duties as vice president. That move came after political partisans recently unearthed four-year-old tweets in which Collins, then a private citizen, lamented anti-Black racism in the Asian community. In those tweets, she also used broad generalizations and language that many Asian Americans felt played into stereotypes and negative tropes.

Asian American current and former elected officials said Collins was defensive and unapologetic when confronted on the matter, and virtually every San Francisco elected official has subsequently called on her to step down. 

Collins’ suit seeks $12 million in general damages from “each” defendant — the school district plus five board colleagues — plus $3 million in punitive damages from each of her five board member colleagues. That tally comes to $87 million (plus fees and other monies) — but even representatives of the City Attorney’s office were having difficulty parsing the suit’s wording as of press time. 

The lawsuit was first reported on Twitter by Gabriel Lorenzo Greschler from the Jewish News of Northern California. 

Collins, who is the only Black woman on the board, charges that her colleagues’ vote to remove her as vice president over the tweets “depriv[ed]” Collins of her First Amendment rights. 

The board’s punishment following the tweets, the lawsuit says, violates free-speech and due-process rights. 

There are “laws mandating that employers refrain from retaliating against employees who participate in protected activity,” the lawsuit states. 

Board President Gabriela López, who has opposed the actions against Collins, is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit alleges that the school board and its members knew that anti-Black and anti-Brown attitudes were prevalent within the district. The 2016 tweets, the lawsuit alleges, referred to those sentiments.  

The suit further alleged that the defendants expressed “zeal to silence [Collins’] advocacy for increased admission in Lowell High,” “raided” her Twitter and “launched a scorched earth search for evidence to silence” her.

Two of the five school board members named in the lawsuit, reached today, said they were unaware of the lawsuit.

School board member Kevine Boggess is still processing the situation and seeking legal advice in regards to the lawsuit. He said today that he “respect[s] Commissioner Collins’ right to litigate, if she feels her rights were violated,” although he maintains that he’s done nothing wrong. 

Boggess acknowledges that, when it comes to attacks on elected officials, there is a “willingness for a different kind of attacking, dehumanization, and grouping.”

 “Anything is in the realm of possibility,” continued Boggess, who joined the board in January. He had not received nor read the lawsuit when first contacted on Wednesday afternoon. 

Boggess did add that San Francisco “needs to have a lot more hard conversations and dialogues about the legacy of institutional racism and prejudice in the city, and tensions that exist within communities” and wants to build a path to having more restorative dialogues. 

Matt Alexander declined to comment until he reviewed the lawsuit. Other affected board members, including Collins, did not respond to requests for comment. 

The school district had not responded by press time. 

The lawsuit also argues that Collins was deprived of “liberty” under the Fourteenth Amendment, because the government had “level[ed] a charge” against her “that impairs his reputation for honesty or morality.” 

It continued that the school board members, the lawsuit alleges, robbed her right to “property” under the Fourteenth Amendment, through “conspiracy” and “malicious, slanderous comments.” 

She and her family has “suffered, and continues to suffer” more than 25 of these afflictions: “substantial losses in earnings, significant loss of reputation, severe mental, and emotional distress” and “injury to spiritual solace,” the lawsuit states.  

This lawsuit drops at a time when the San Francisco school district has been grappling with numerous controversies, including scrapping Lowell High School’s merit-based admission process and the proposed renaming of 44 schools. Critics argued that the controversies delayed school reopenings, and some launched a recall effort targeting López, Collins and Moliga. 

San Francisco plans to begin reopening elementary school classrooms in mid-April, more than a year after their closure due to the pandemic. 

The suit — and the revelation of Collins’ past tweets — also comes amid heightened anti-Asian violence locally and nationwide, inciting fears among some Asian parents to send their kids to school

The lawsuit contends that Collins was a private citizen when she published several tweets on Dec.4, 2016. The tweets said that many Asian American students benefit from the “model minority BS” and that they “use white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead,” as well as calling them “house n*****s.” Collins issued a public apology for the “pain” her tweets caused the Asian community, though critics quickly noted she did not apologize for their meaning or content. She has since argued that her tweets were “taken out of context” and were an attempt to stand up for Black students in the district.

Screenshot from lawsuit with text from all of Collins original tweets.

Clara-Sophia Daly

Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys...

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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37 Comments

  1. From the tumbril, she who has been swiftly condemned to a political lynching is fighting back.

    1. Fighting back with a trivial and borderline obsessive lawsuit that won’t even make it to trial?

      Yeah, that will show them. Meanwhile SF’s claim to be a bastion of progressive values takes yet another bodyblow. This ongoing farce is doing the city real harm.

    2. The record shows that she was swift to ‘tumbril’ others on less ‘evidence’ than that which resulted in her legal wailing.

      1. The issue is not Collins nor her tweet, it is the attempt by conservative Chinese Americans to silence Black experiences with racism from some Chinese Americans in the SFUSD and raging that some of their access to Lowell has been terminated.

        Indian Americans, Southeast Asian Americans, Japanese Americans, “Asians” all don’t seem to have the entanglement with Blacks that conservative Chinese Americans do. I wonder why that might be?

        1. This was never about racism or even the structural racism endemic in our public schools. That would take actual work and collaborative leadership. Collins was never here to listen and unite different communities. She never cared that we are in a deficit, and further losing millions of dollars for not reopening, that our kids are in depression, that suicide rates are up, or that we just lost 20 kinder classrooms of students who did not enroll for next year because parents are leaving the district. Collins is a wealthy politician out to make her career preaching a sham wokeness that makes a mockery of us. I say sham because if it came from an honest place she’d look at her daughter’s own high school (SOTA) which is actually the whitest and socio-economically wealthy of all the public schools in San Francisco. It’s also a merit school. I’ve been in this district 11 yrs with my kids and real leaders are rarer than a fully-funded PE teacher (which doesn’t exist, and neither do nurses or art, or classroom books, unless parents fundraise and most can’t). I’m tired of elite politicians with rich gentrifying husbands making a name for themselves at the expense of us. We should be working together and building alliances and 1) pooling our PTA funds together across schools to make things more equitable and 2) seriously taxing all the white parents who have kids in private school and moving that money to public elementary and middle schools so we can lower classroom size and get them resources. We should also consider a limit on the number of private schools parents from public high school who come and take spots at Lowell and SOTA and Lincoln and all high schools after leaving for private middle schools. Wealth in this city is what is causing the disparity and we need to address it. But Collins comes from wealth and these are questions and problems Collins, Lopez, and their ilk will never touch because they don’t care to listen and learn from the constituents they claim to represent. They are too ignorant to see they are making one community the scapegoat of another.

          Signed,
          One tired Latina public school parent

          1. I am not a fan of Collins. I think that she is the poster politico for reifying what we used to call solidarity in favor of transactional maudlin performances of neoliberal identity politics.

            When it comes to expressions of the Black pain of racism experienced by school age children expressed from a private citizen parent, then aside from Native pain, dwarfs anything experienced by any other demographic that has been oppressed.

            The notion that Chinese American families get to blow up the desegregation consent decree and then claim racism when confronted with Black pain is insulting. Taken together, it is designed as a proof of concept to appeal to conservative white supremacist power.

        2. @ marcos – Better to fall off the tumbril than the bandwagon?

          Collins opposition hit pay dirt in finding those tweets – they do amount to more than a faux pas. Add a frivolous lawsuit and bake at current national temp. Voila, she’s cooked.

          Regardless, the double-dealing here needs to be called out. Racist attacks and blanket generalizations aside, there’s some truth in Collins’ tweets.

          https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thenation.com/article/archive/asian-conservatives-affirmative-action/tnamp/

          1. @Marcos. Since you brought up the consent decree/lottery you should take into account that middle class parents actually play the lottery so well that all of our schools are actually more segregated because of the lottery. All you have to do is glance at the demographics of the district. SFUSD has realized this for years and have a report they created about it which they released and discussed during Haney’s term on the BOE and that’s why the BOE is phasing out lottery in elementary schools starting next year. They’re switching to a neighborhood schools system to cleanup the mess that lotteries made because the fact is middle class whites are really adept at bureaucracy. That’s why this whole turning a merit high school into a lottery high school to solve a segregation problem is a farce. A true solution would be affirmative action and repealing the California ban on it. But again that requires working together.

          2. Anyone who’s family moved to the US on their own volition (mine included) for their economic benefit from an economy capitalized by the crime against humanity of Black chattel slavery should not expect an easy ride it from the stiffed and aggrieved creditors who have been maintained as an underclass.

            The personages involved are irrelevant. Nothing any political hack can say changes that persistent dynamic. Changing that will require work, hard work. Does anyone expect hard work for racial justice from the demographic that gleefully sued to upend the desegregation consent decree in the 1990s?

            Or is this just conservatives coopting Black pain for their own economic gain. Again?

  2. I wonder how she’s funding this suit. Is her husband a commercial land developer associated with some large prime real estate projects, like in and around Rincon Hill? This is a sad state for everyone involved.

  3. Alison Collins sense of entitlement knows no bounds. Again she is distracting the board from it’s vore mission.

  4. The drive to recall the self-entitled Ms. Collins just went into over-drive — she’s simply toxic.

  5. You know a trash talking racist like Collins scrubbed her social media clean -as if her racist tirades can’t be recovered. Then, like a grifter, she sues. Classic, but the school board that rejected a consultant to plan school reopening because they had worked for charter schools deserves the grief.

  6. @Marcos – She hadn’t scrubbed them from her Twitter even after they went viral and were published verbatim in SF Gate. Just as a matter of fact. For better or worse.

  7. Am I missing something? She seems to be from a privileged background based on her own publications around the web, with both of her parents in academia, her late dad at UCLA. That’s elite. Her dh’s website says his firm was involved in some luxurious SOMA/Cut/Rincon Hill developments. Again elite. They seemed to have successfully leveraged their privilege in securing their kid (s) into the School of the Arts. Isn’t that a charter school, similar to Lowell? Does anyone else know the demographics of that school? I’m just trying to get what Collins is about. The SFUSD likely is going to lose students. They lose funding for every student they lose because that’s how public schools are funded. The schools are already strapped. Anyone who can afford to probably has already left or plans on leaving the hot mess of the SFUSD, leaving only the most vulnerable left. Because they don’t have a choice. Now, the scant remaining resources to educate under extra-trying times are being targeted by someone of the privileged class? What am I missing? I feel for the kids, parents, teachers and staff, all trying to do the best they can.

    1. When this frivolous suit is thrown out, she should be forced to pay all of the legal fees for SFUSD and the individuals on the Board. Oh, and her attorneys should be disciplined by the CA Bar.

      But, of course, none of this will happen, and the farce that SF has become will continue. The only losers will be the children that SFUSD was ostensibly trying to educate.

      You couldn’t make up this whole situation if you tried.

  8. I read that SF schoolboard members stipend is $6000/yr. The legal fees for her are going to be many many times that.

  9. Even people who supported her initially have to see how crazy this is right? She is so self obsessed and convinced that she can never do wrong that she is literally suing the SFUSD and trying to take money from children! These sycophants who support her are beyond the pale. Also she doesn’t need this money, her developer husband has them set for life.

  10. All of you are crazy you don’t see that all of the top positions everywhere are trying to silence anyone who doesn’t see thing there way everyone has to see thing the way they say to this is dictatorship America is not supposed to be this way they are working together to take away our rights and freedoms including all of yours just wait and you will see no one is safe from this anti American BULLSH*T you are not American if you don’t agree with our constitutional rights

  11. It’s interesting how she is acting exactly like a right-wing pundit who gets called out for their bs.

    People found her tweets racist, and she got off relatively easy by not getting kicked off the board. Her freedom of speech wasn’t hindered – she was free to say stuff, and people were free to find her views offensive.

    She had an opportunity to reflect on how she was expressing herself and reconsider her words, and instead she is suing people for a bajillion dollars because…people were offended by her offensive statements? She should go hang out with Ben Shapiro.

  12. Collins’ righteous indignation is so shallow and hypocritical that it’s almost comical. A sad day for SFUSD and a sad day for our kids.

  13. Suing because her fe-fes are hurt. Where have we seen this before?
    Oh, yes the Republicans.

  14. I will donate to the cities fund to litigate against Collins, if they are considering settling this. Do not give her a dime. She has zero ground to stand on.

  15. Shes the poster child for the insane vagaries of the critical race theory ideology. The more publicity she gets the more clear it is that her ideology is nothing but evil. Heres hoping she stays in the news and continues to represent Critical Race Theory accurately.

  16. I fully expected to see “Dodson and Fogg” as the plaintiff’s attorneys when I opened the lawsuit.

  17. She must understand that any money she would receive would take away from the kids she was elected to serve. The number she is asking for is totally nuts.

  18. How did she ever get elected? Who could have endorsed this person? Here’s a list: San Francisco Democratic Party
    United Educators of San Francisco (UESF)
    Service Employees International Union 1021 (SEIU 1021)
    San Francisco Labor Council
    IFPTE Local 21
    National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)
    AFT Local 2121 – City College of San Francisco Faculty Union
    San Francisco State University California Faculty Association (SFSU/CFA)
    ILWU Northern California District Council
    San Francisco Examiner
    San Francisco Bay Guardian
    San Francisco Women’s Political Committee (SFWPC)
    Coleman Action Fund
    Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club
    League of Pissed Off Voters
    Evolve California
    Latina/o Young Democrats of San Francisco
    Black Young Democrats of San Francisco
    Irish American Democratic Club
    San Francisco Berniecrats
    San Francisco League of Conservation Voters
    Progressive Democrats of America (PDA-CA)
    FDR Democratic Club of San Francisco
    Richmond District Democratic Club
    Potrero Hill Democratic Club
    Bernal Heights Democratic Club
    San Francisco District 11 Democratic Club
    District 3 Democratic Club
    Elected Officials
    Board of Supervisors
    Malia Cohen, President, San Francisco Supervisor, District 10
    Sandra Fewer, San Francisco Supervisor, District 1, and Former Commissioner, Board of Education*
    Aaron Peskin, San Francisco Supervisor, District 3*
    Vallie Brown, San Francisco Supervisor, District 5*
    Jane Kim, San Francisco Supervisor, District 6, SF Mayoral Candidate, and Former Commissioner, Board of Education*
    Norman Yee, San Francisco Supervisor, District 7*
    Rafael Mandelman, San Francisco Supervisor, District 8, Former City College of San Francisco Trustee*
    Hillary Ronen, San Francisco Supervisor, District 9*
    Board of Education
    Stevon Cook, President, SFUSD Board of Education Commissioner*
    Mark Sanchez, SFUSD Board of Education Commissioner*
    Matt Haney, SFUSD Board of Education Commissioner*
    Shamann Walton, SFUSD Board of Education Commissioner*
    Faauuga Moliga,SFUSD Board of Education Commissioner*
    Hydra Mendoza, Former SFUSD Board of Education Commissioner*
    Other Elected Leaders:
    Tony Thurmond, CA State Assemblyman
    Tom Ammiano, Former State Assemblyman, Former President Board of Supervisors
    David Campos, Chair, San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC), Former San Francisco Supervisor, District 9*
    Bevan Dufty, Bart Board Commissioner, Former San Francisco Supervisor, District 8*
    Shannel Williams, Trustee, City College of San Francisco*
    Tom Temprano, Trustee, City College of San Francisco*
    Sophie Maxwell, Former San Francisco Supervisor, District 10
    Eric Mar, Former San Francisco Supervisor, District 1, Former Board of Education Commissioner
    Dr. Kim-Shree Maufas, Former Commissioner, SFUSD Board of Education*
    William Walker, Former City College of San Francisco Student Trustee*
    Honey Mahogany, Member, SFDCCC; Co-President, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club*
    Peter Golatta, Member, SFDCCC; former President of the Harvey Milk Club LGBTQ Democratic Club*
    Keith Baraka, Member, SFDCCC*
    Alysabeth Alexander, Member, SFDCCC*
    Petra De Jesus, Member, SFDCCC; San Francisco Police Commissioner*
    Kelly Groth, Member, SFDCCC*
    Pratima Gupta, Member, SFDCCC*
    Jen Low, Member, SFDCCC*
    Leah LaCroix, SFDCCC*
    Parents and Community Leaders
    Gordon Mar, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice San Francisco*
    Marily Mondejar, Founder Filipina Women’s Network, OCII Commissioner*
    Eddy Zheng, Community Advocate*
    Dori Caminong, SF Entertainment Commission*
    Jordan Davis, Transgender Advocate, Tenant Representative for the SRO Task Force*
    Jon Jacobo, Co-President of Latin@ Young Democrats*
    Ian Fregosi, Legislative Aide to Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer*
    Rudy Corpuz, Executive Director United Playaz*
    Tracy Brown, Labor Leader, SEIU and former SFUSD Community Schools Coordinator*
    Bahlam Javier Vigil, Latino Democratic Club, Board and D11 Youth Commission*
    Gailyn Anderson, Community Leader and former SFUSD Parent Advisory Council member*
    Donna Smith, Community Leader and former Parent Liaison, Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary, Balboa High School (among others)*
    Pastor Aurelius Walker, Pastor, True Hope Church of God in Christ*
    Kevin Ortiz, Community Activist*
    Bivett Brackett, Community Leader*
    Vani Ari, Coach for SFUSD/Adjunct Professor in Education at University of San Francisco*
    Julie Roberts-Phung, Organizer & Co-Founder, SF Families Union, and Parent, Redding Elementary School*
    Sherri Young, Executive Director and Founder, African-American Shakespeare*
    Todd Berman, Director, Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area*
    Allyson Bravmann, Parent, Tenderloin Community School*
    Silvia Wilson, Parent and Parent Advocate, Jean Parker Elementary School*
    Melissa Daar Carvajal, Communications Consultant, Everett Parent*
    Mildred Coffey, Parent Advocate*
    Susanne Dunnigan, Writer, and Parent, Claire Lillienthal*
    Laura Wolfram, Parent, Alice Fong Yu School*
    Leslie de Taillandier, Senior Citizen Caregiver*
    Sonia Cantu-Faulhaber Former Sping Valley Science School parent volunteer, PTA board member and school liaison*
    Curtis Lee, Grandparent, Community Leader, Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School*
    Linda Antoine, Parent, Community Leader, Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School*
    Educators
    Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Education Researcher*
    Dr. Roxana Marachi, Education Researcher*
    Dr. Laurie Scolari, Professor SFSU & Former Dean City College of San Francisco (focus on 1st generation college-going)*
    Dr. Nicole M. Joseph, Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education*
    Diane Gray, Executive Director, Bayview Association for Youth/100% College Prep Institute*
    Lauren Piontkoski, Associate Dean, Hult International Business School*
    Jeremiah Jeffries, Teacher 4 Social Justice, 1st Grade Teacher, SFUSD*
    Joel Arquillos, Executive Director, 826LA, and former high school social studies teacher*
    David Barrios, Science Teacher, Galileo High School*
    Owen Peery, Teacher on Special Assignment, STEM Department Computer Science team*
    Arienne Adamcikova, Writer, Teacher and Parent, Everett Middle School*
    Cynthia Eagleton, Teacher*

    1. Yep. All those entities endorsed her. As far as I’m concerned, they are responsible for this mess. They told us that we should vote for Alison Collins, so we did. We didn’t know that she was the wife of a wealthy developer who pushes people out to build his sky rises, but all those people who endorsed her probably did. They should take ownership of what she has done.Still middle schools aren’t open.

  19. how is suing the school district for 90 million demonstrating any leadership or care for students and the institution of the school district? She seems more concerned about herself, not the students, voters, fellow board members, etc.

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