The San Francisco school board voted 5-2 Thursday to strip Board member Alison Collins of her title as vice president and committee assignments in a rare and somber vote of no confidence.
Board member Faauuga Moliga announced the resolution co-authored by Jenny Lam on Tuesday, and then picked up support from colleagues Kevine Boggess, Matt Alexander, and Mark Sanchez in the fast-moving crisis. Board President Gabriela López and Collins were the only board members to vote against it.
Collins has been the subject of widespread calls for her resignation this week after a group working toward the recall of several board members resurfaced 2016 tweets of hers targeting Asian Americans. The tweets, which complained about lack of efforts by Asian Americans she knows to combat racism, invoked stereotypes such as “tiger moms,” applied the derogatory term “house n*****” to the community, and accused Asians of using “white supremacist thinking to ‘get ahead.’”
“Commissioner Collins’ statements were not only hurtful but racist and I am calling it for what it is,” said Moliga. “These past few days have been heartbreaking for our communities. We cannot endeavor to build a safe space if the trust between our leaders and those who serve is broken.”
Collins’ apologized for the tweets Saturday, acknowledging the pain they caused but said they were taken out of context. Her words have not been sufficient to ease the anger of many community members already edgy about increased hate speech and attacks against the Asian community.
“I’d like to re-emphasize my sincere and heartfelt apologies,” Collins said on Tuesday. “I appreciate the opportunity to be part of a restorative and transformative dialogue going forward that calls us in together as leaders in this city. That call is for us to live and model the values we bring through policy and action and to double down on our commitment to listen, and continuing fighting for educational opportunities and racial justice for all, and all communities as a member of the Board of Education.”
On Thursday, Collins’ comments were focused solely on the speed with which the resolution was added to the agenda, without the approval of Board President Gabriela López.
An overwhelming majority of San Francisco’s political structure has united in calls for Collins to resign. Mayor London Breed, nearly all of the Board of Supervisors, and, as of Wednesday night, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, have all signed on. Top SFUSD administrators, all of whom work closely with Collins, took the rare step of issuing a letter condemning the statements.
Moliga and Lam, the only two Asian Pacific Islander school board members, were the first members of the governing body to call for her to resign. Other members on Tuesday shared statements condemning the tweets but expressing support for a “restorative justice” model; Alexander said he would defer to the resolution authors to determine if Collins followed through.
Some have come out to defend her and urged her not to resign, including a handful of members of the Asian Pacific Islander community. The San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and San Francisco Black Wall Street have issued letters cautioning against running with the moment.
“I know that this is complicated and this is hard because we don’t want to be met with the racism we have inside us,” said López. “To see this happening now and to not say this is political, to me, this is a ridiculous display of that. We’ve been challenged for talking about the things people don’t want us to talk about. That’s why we’re harassed, that’s why we’re threatened.”
Every school board member on Thursday, and several people in public comment, expressed deep sadness at the situation. Members also condemned the anti-Black sentiments Collins has been subjected to since the news came out.
While several voiced support for a restorative justice process, others have noted that Collins has not taken enough responsibility for such a process to work.
“In moments like this, I also believe leadership requires admitting mistakes and listening very deeply to people who have been harmed and showing humility and making amends,” Alexander said. “To be honest, I haven’t seen that in a meaningful way. No matter what happens today, I don’t think we should mistake it as a success of any kind.”