SF School Board member drops $87 million lawsuit, board probably won't pursue legal costs

San Francisco school board member Alison Collins had decided not to continue pursuing her $87 million lawsuit against her fellow board members.

Collins filed the paperwork Tuesday to voluntarily dismiss all claims against all defendants, the same day recall supporters submitted 81,200 signatures to try to oust her from her seat on the school board.

Her decision to terminate the legal case offered some reprieve to a district facing a massive budget shortfall in the coming years, an annual deficit that is expected to exceed $100 million.

The lawsuit had already been tossed out by a judge last month whose ruling was seen as a rebuke of her argument:

A federal judge tossed out an $87 million lawsuit filed by San Francisco school board member Alison Collins against the school district and five of her fellow members Monday, saying the claims had no merit and there was no need to argue the case in court.

“Nowhere in her complaint does Plaintiff allege facts supporting this legal conclusion,” Gilliam said in the ruling. “And Plaintiff does not explain in her opposition how the resolution that removed her from her position as Vice President constitutes an ongoing violation of federal law. While the Court is required to construe Plaintiff’s allegations in the light most favorable to her, the Court cannot find that this unsupported legal conclusion is adequate to plead an ongoing violation of federal law.”

Attorney John Affeldt, an expert in education and equity, said Collins could appeal the ruling, but the decision was a “pretty firm rejection of the plaintiff’s theories, especially to the district.”

However, the judge’s decision left open the possibility that Collins could amend her complaint against the school board and try again. Today she decided she wouldn’t pursue it anymore.

Collins sued the board and the district for $87 million back in April, claiming her rights had been violated. Collins was unhappy that she’d been removed as the vice president of the board after some tweets cropped up in which she said Asians used “white supremacist thinking” to get ahead. As a San Francisco Chronicle editorial said at the time, “if she and other school board members can condemn Americans on the basis of actions a century or more ago, then surely a Twitter post from 2016 should be fair game in the assessment of an elected official.”

Now that the lawsuit is behind her, the board has to decide whether or not to pursue the money they spent on legal fees for their defense. One member of the board is already saying they shouldn’t do that:

As of mid-August, the district had already spent $110,000 on the lawsuit, with more bills coming due…

“I don’t support pursuing legal costs,” Moliga said. “There are other issues the board needs to be focused on. I would like to get beyond the drama and work on the substantive issues that require our attention.”

Moliga is one of the three board members (the third is board president Gabriela Lopez) whose recall should be on the ballot soon. I’m not sure why he thinks Collins should be given a pass on repaying the money spent defending this lawsuit. Why should the taxpayers get stuck with the bill that comes directly from her ill-advised actions? I guess this is one more reason to recall her. Thankfully, it won’t be long before voters will get their chance.