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Judge tosses $87 million free-speech lawsuit by San Francisco school board member

The San Francisco Unified School District board voted Alison Collins out as vice president when racist tweets from 2016 came to light.

(CN) — A federal judge on Monday found no merit in a First Amendment lawsuit brought by the former vice president of the San Francisco Unified School District board after her ouster over anti-Asian tweets.

Alison Collins filed the $87 million-dollar lawsuit in March, claiming the board violated her freedom of speech when members voted her out as vice president and removed her from her committee assignments after tweets surfaced that caught the ire of both parents and board members alike. Collins said Asian Americans used “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’”

“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,’” Collins tweeted in December 2016, before her election to the school board.

Collins claimed the tweets were taken out of context by her detractors, but that explanation did little to appease angry community members around San Francisco, including Mayor London Breed and several of Collins’ fellow SFUSD board members, who have since followed up with their own calls for her resignation.

California Assembly member David Chiu also joined the chorus calling for Collins’ resignation around the time she filed her lawsuit. Chiu tweeted in March that Collins’ tweets helped “perpetuate untrue and harmful stereotypes.”

“The vast majority of Asian Americans understand how destructive the model minority myth has been, and how it creates wedges within our community,” said Chiu in a statement posted to Twitter.

Mayor Breed quickly retweeted Chiu’s statement, agreeing that Collins should resign and spare the district a potential legal battle.

In her lawsuit, Collins sought to have herself reinstated as vice president of the school board as well reassignment to the committees she was forced from, along with a hefty sum for her troubles. But while the first hearing in the case was supposed to take place Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. found the hearing was unnecessary and dismissed the case.

Gilliam said the school district enjoys immunity from Collins' claims under the 11th Amendment and dismissed the claims against it without leave to amend. As for the claims against the board members, Gilliam found no ongoing constitutional violations against Collins and that they enjoy qualified immunity — although the judge did grant Collins leave to amend her claims against the board members within 21 days.

Representatives for the San Francisco Unified School District and Collins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Categories: Civil Rights Education

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