Judge tosses San Francisco school board member's $87M suit

A federal judge has thrown out an $87 million lawsuit that a San Francisco school board member filed against the district and her colleagues after they voted to strip her of senior board positions because of tweets that were widely criticized as racist.

Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. said in his ruling on Monday that the claims by Alison Collins, who was vice president of the San Francisco school board, had no merit and there was no need to argue the case in court, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Collins filed the lawsuit in March, accusing the San Francisco Unified School District and five of her colleagues on the seven-member board of violating her free speech rights when they voted in a 5-2 ruling to strip her of her position as vice president and remove her from committees due to tweets dating back to 2016, before she was a school board member.

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Collins sought $72 million in damages from the district and $3 million from each board member who had voted to strip her titles. In the lawsuit, Collins also sought an injunction to restore her as vice president, which the judge also denied.

Collins, who is Black, came under fire after critics unearthed the tweets in which she wrote that many Asian Americans "use white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead’" and "believe they benefit from the ‘model minority’ BS."

In the thread, Collins called for Asian Americans to speak out against then-President Donald Trump’s policies, saying that her daughter stepped in to stop Asian American boys who were bullying a Latino student. "Don’t Asian Americans know they are on his list as well?" Collins wrote, using asterisks in place of a racial slur: "Being a house n(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)r is still being a n(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)r. You’re still considered ‘the help.’"

The tweets sparked outrage and calls for Collins to resign, which she resisted and remains on the school board. At the time, Collins said the tweets were taken out of context and that she was speaking out against harassment, racism and bullying of Black and brown students in the district.

Gilliam’s ruling allows Collins to amend her complaint against the individual board members, but not the district, which is a government agency and not subject to lawsuits.

The ruling was welcomed by district officials Monday, as San Francisco schools reopened for the fall term.

"We’re focused on supporting our schools as they begin the new school year," Deputy Superintendent Gentle Blythe said. "It’s helpful to have one less distraction."

Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.