School Board Recalls Set Back Racial Justice in SF

Showing Up for Racial Justice San Francisco (SURJ SF) rejects and opposes the efforts to recall three San Francisco School Board members; Gabriela López, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga. These efforts would set back important racial justice efforts led by Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander leaders elected by our diverse city. This recall endangers the mental, physical and emotional well being of the children and families in San Francisco by sidelining this crucial racial justice work, and is a part of a national pattern of using racial justice as a wedge issue to suppress the votes of communities of color.

An increase in use of the recall process against School Boards is growing nationwide. In the previous decade (2010-20), there were an average of 28 School Board recalls per year nationwide, targeting an average of 64 officials. This year, there are more than double the number of School Board recalls (66), with 174 officials targeted nationwide(1). This is not an accident, it’s an explicit strategy by right wing, conservative activists who are using issues like masking and “Critical Race Theory” to create a toxic climate at school boards, force vacant seats and special elections. This is a voter suppression tactic as the special elections have a smaller, whiter and more conservative electorate.

The anti-racist work of this School Board benefits students.

This recall effort would derail the community-grounded racial justice efforts of this board to create a more inclusive environment for students to learn. The anti-racist track record of initiatives by this board includes:

  • passing a resolution to increase access to Lowell, particularly for Black and Lantix students, and to address the ongoing and pervasive systemic racism at Lowell High School against students of color (specifically Black students)

  • implementing Vietnamese and Arabic language pathway programs, making reparations to American Indian and Alaskan Native Communities,

  • creating the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Parent Advisory (Matua) Committee, developing a Pacific Islander pathway program

  • addressing the imbalance of representation in San Francisco school names, among other efforts

  • continuing work by Black students and the Black Panther Party, at the call of Indigenious families and young students of color to take down the racist Life of George Washington Mural

  • passing an art equity resolution that looked at racial inequities in who gets art in school every day, and which shifted arts funding from administration into arts at school sites and access to instruments with no rental charge

The reasons stated by the groups calling for School Board members to be recalled are based on values that center families of privilege. These groups put up a false dichotomy between working to increase equity and representation and opening to in-person learning in a safe way. Putting a focus on making our schools more inclusive and less racist does NOT mean a board can not also work to reopen safely (as they did).

Fairly-elected leaders of color deserve our support, not targeted attacks.

This recall focuses on the recall of three leaders of color, including the President and Vice President of the Board. If we want our city to have the most inclusive, safe and effective public school system we must lift up and center folks of various racial backgrounds, especially those who represent historically marginalized communities. As Supervisor Walton notes “It is also not lost on me that these are ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR. They are governing in a pandemic and it may look easy from the outside looking-in, but serving on the Board of Education is no cake walk, but it is an amazing opportunity. The voters chose for them to serve.” No one person of color can speak for all, but silencing people of color who have been elected to positions of leadership based solely on their policy decisions amounts to racism.

Policy-based recall efforts undermine our electoral process.

SURJ SF believes that this school board recall effort along with efforts to recall other elected officials constitutes a gross abuse of the recall process and undermines the integrity of the election process. Recall efforts require only a small segment of the voting population sign on initially, and there are no rules about what constitutes grounds for a recall(2). If this recall succeeds, the replacement members are appointed by the mayor, thus taking away the voice of the people in choosing their own representation in how their schools are run—particularly noncitizen parents and guardians who are not eligible to vote in mayoral or recall elections.

As an organization that strives for anti-racism and racial justice, SURJ SF takes a strong position against the recall of members of the San Francisco school board.

1 Ballotopedia - “School board recalls” -
2 National Council of State Legislatures - “
Recall of Local Officials.”