Supreme Court Case Could Help Alison Collins

Welcome to my special newsletter about ways to change the San Francisco school board and how to get involved. This is update 13.

Find out below how an upcoming Supreme Court case could help Alison Collins win her $87 million lawsuit against the San Francisco school district and her fellow commissioners. The saga of our school board never ends.

This newsletter contains:

  • Supreme Court Takes Case That Could Help Alison Collins Lawsuit
  • What’s the Difference Between Recall and Reform?
  • Drive-Thru Recall Petition Signing (Sunday May 2)
  • The Case for Recalling the School Board
  • Recall Timeline
  • Action Items

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Thanks for your support,
Joel Engardio

When Alison Collins filed an $87 million lawsuit against the school district and her fellow school board commissioners, journalists and legal experts called it frivolous and poorly written.

Collins claimed her free speech rights were violated when the school board censured her for racist tweets she wrote about Asian Americans in 2016 that resurfaced in 2021. The First Amendment argument seemed like a stretch to many.

But in a stroke of good timing for Collins, the Supreme Court agreed this week to hear a case similar to hers. The high court will decide “whether school boards and other local government bodies may censure speech by one of their members without running afoul of the First Amendment.”

The case involves a Texas school board member who was reprimanded for making an anti-LGBTQ rant. Read more about the case in this Education Week article.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if a majority conservative Supreme Court sets a precedent that helps Alison Collins win an $87 million lawsuit against San Francisco’s school district?

It would also be tragic, considering our schools already face a $169 million deficit.

I’ve long talked about how fixing the school board requires a multi-step process:

  1. Focus on getting all students safely back in school full time.
  2. Recall the most problematic school board commissioners who failed their core duty to safely reopen schools for more than a year.
  3. Structurally change how the school board is formed and set qualifications for serving to avoid ending up in the same mess again.

For school reopenings, Decreasing the Distance is a group led by parent heroes. They’re on top of it. Read my interview with the supermom co-founder.

And sign their petition calling on the governor and state legislators to restore full time, in-person classes for all California public school kids.

For recall and reform, you can meet the parent leaders of each movement at two upcoming webinars and ask questions. While the recall effort seeks an immediate fix, the reform group is working on a long term solution:

Recall webinar
Thursday May 6
Click to register

Reform webinar
Monday May 3
Click to register

I’ll be moderating the discussion at the reform webinar on Monday, May 3.

Our drive-thru is open on Sunday, May 2. Sign the school board recall petition curbside:

Sunday May 2
11am to 1pm
Lowell High School
1101 Eucalyptus

Fill your car with family members so we can get everyone to sign.

Walk-ups and bikes are also welcome at the drive-thru.

Want to volunteer at the drive-thru? Fill out this form.

PLEASE AMPLIFY THIS MESSAGE: post it on your Nextdoor and Facebook accounts. Send it to your email lists.

Print your own petition
Click here to download, print, sign, and mail your own petition today. Or drop it off at the May 2 drive-thru. Anything you sign online doesn’t count. The actual recall petition must be signed with pen on paper.

There’s a strong case for recalling the San Francisco school board. Here are the reasons:

  • Voting to fire top administrators not in line with the school board’s ideology, which created instability and left a vacuum of expertise that made navigating the pandemic even more difficult.
  • Voting against hiring a consultant to create a plan for reopening schools.
  • Voting to rename schools with a flawed process before making any plans to reopen schools.
  • Voting to end merit-based admission at one of the nation’s top high schools rather than focus on reopening high schools or creating more high schools with high academic standards.
  • Plus, Commissioner Alison Collins wrote racist tweets about Asian Americans in 2016 that resurfaced in 2021. She then sued the school district and her fellow commissioners for $87 million after they censured her for the tweets. Note the school district faces a $169 million deficit.

The greatest indictment against the school board is that it neglected its core job: Getting students safely back into classrooms to avoid the harmful learning loss and mental health stress of being isolated at home on Zoom for more than a year.

As the school board descends into ever-more chaos and controversy, it’s important to remember how a majority of school board commissioners had failed parents and students long before the racist tweets by Alison Collins were exposed.

And we can’t forget that the school board didn’t bother to start planning to reopen schools in earnest or back off its school renaming debacle until faced with lawsuits, recalls, and protests from frustrated and exhausted parents.

Click here to read the full case in more detail.


Fixing the school board is going to take four actions in the following order:

  1. Decreasing the Distance: This parent-led group is focused on the need to safely reopen all public schools full time. Join their advocacy work. Read a profile about one of their “super mom” founders.
  2. Recall SF School Board: Next, we need to recall the school board members who have failed their core responsibilities in so many ways. Get your petition here. Be sure to sign up on the recall website to stay informed or volunteer. The recall effort is run by parents Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj. Learn about their background in this profile video.
  3. Better SF Public Schools: After the recall, we need to structurally change how the school board is formed so we don’t end up in the same situation again. This political action committee is run by parents Patrick Wolff and Jennifer Butterfoss. They say a “strong, focused and competent public school governance is essential to a great city. Let’s redesign the way our school system is governed.” Read their full vision statement. They are working to amend our city’s constitution with an initiative on the June 2022 ballot that would make the school board an appointed body with certain qualifications for running schools. Also read their excellent research paper that makes the case for an appointed school board.
  4. Friends of Lowell Foundation: If your children aspired to attend Lowell High School, join this group to restore Lowell as an academic and merit-based public high school and to boost academic preparation for all San Francisco public school students. Join here.

Do you have friends who would like this newsletter? Ask them to sign up here.

NOTE: This newsletter and previous updates are also published as blog posts. Click to read and share on social media:
Update 13 (Supreme Court case could help Alison Collins lawsuit)
Update 12 (More drive-thrus, the case for recall)
Update 11 (Drive-thru petition success and more dates)
Update 10 (Drive-thru petition signing, the full case for recall)
Update 9 (Recall petitions ready for signing, petition instructions)
Update 8 (Perspective on why school board reform called for in first place)
Update 7 (Q&A with Decreasing the Distance leader Meredith Dodson)
Update 6 (Charter amendment launches to appoint versus elect school board)
Update 5 (Recall helpers 7,000 and growing, recall timeline)
Update 4 (Recall launches, find out who is behind it)
Update 3 (Where is the recall? What are the options?)
Update 2 (Lowell becomes lottery, school board says gay dad not diverse enough)
Update 1 (City Attorney lawsuit)
First Edition (How do you recall the school board? Process and hurdles)

Originally published at on April 27, 2021.




Forward-thinking + pragmatic Democrat, civil liberties advocate, award-winning journalist, Westside SF homeowner. My local views at

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Joel Engardio

Joel Engardio

Forward-thinking + pragmatic Democrat, civil liberties advocate, award-winning journalist, Westside SF homeowner. My local views at

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