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Changes to Lowell’s admission process sparks attacks against school board members, magnifies racial division

As a result of changes to Lowell High School’s admission process, two San Francisco Unified School District board members were the targets of attacks via social media. 

In an unanimous decision by the SFUSD school board, Lowell High School’s merit based admission program was temporarily substituted for raffle based entry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two board members and former educators, Vice President Gabriela López and Commissioner Alison M. Collins were sent threatening messages via social media.

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An image posted on Twitter by one user had called López “public enemy number one” and captioned the image “You don’t know who you live by, Tick Tock.”

Another user created a Facebook page accompanying a video of a bloody glove holding photos of López and Collins, their foreheads endowed with swastikas, bearing the caption ”NO NAZISM IN SFUSD” being set aflame. That video surfaced on Oct. 23 and was reposted by López. 

The video creator was identified by the SF Examiner as Twitter user @atang1200. 

“Because Alison Collins and myself were the ones who were most vocal about it, we were put out as the targets,” López said.

Andrew Tang, the man behind the account, is a Lincoln Graduate according to Collins. Tang did not respond to requests for comment.

“When we talk about affirmative action, anytime you talk about creating opportunities for Black and Latinx students, sometimes what happens is Asian-Americans are pitted against other people of color as a way to stall change,” Collins said in response to what may have motivated Tang to do this. “It’s kind of a tactic, and I’m not saying Andrew is even thinking of this tactic. It’s like when Black folks are anti-immigrant and they’re fearful that immigrants are coming to take away their jobs. Those are the ways that we get manipulated because we don’t understand our common history.”

Two SFUSD board members and former educators, Vice President Gabriela López (Left) and Commissioner Alison M. Collins were sent threatening messages via social media. Left Photo: Mabel Jiménez

Collins also referred to the 1994 lawsuit, Ho v. SFUSD, in which an Asian-American student was denied entry due to a policy that allowed only a certain percent of each race into the school to ensure a more diverse environment.

SFUSD lost the lawsuit and since then the board has been unable to use race as a determinant to entry.

On the topic of more diversity in schools, Collins said that “[when] we fight for access for everybody, the entire system gets better.”

“That’s why it’s unfortunate. This man is a graduate of Lincoln, and it tells me we didn’t do a good job of educating him,” Collins said.

She believes that there are influences, like President Donald Trump, who she said “benefits when we fight one another. And by creating fear between communities, he keeps us divided and he can continue to operate the way he wants to operate without any oversight.” 

Additionally Collins said that there are “folks that are benefitting from this current system and would prefer if we were all fighting with one another. He’s being influenced by that kind of rhetoric.”

However the temporary change to a raffle based entry at Lowell had nothing to with race at all, according to López.

Previously a student’s entry was determined by state standardized testing scores, and their performance on an essay administered in class. 

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Earlier this year in response to the pandemic, Governor Newsom suspended the administration of standardized testing, however Lowell’s essay remained.

“If we did it based on an essay, it would disadvantage students that are English learner students, because they would have to write essays by themselves,” said Collins. And since English is not their first language, “they most likely have less support at home,” Collins said.

The threatening messages have for the most part singled out Collins and López.

“You could look at Twitter and see who gets targeted and attacked, on Facebook, it tends to be women of color,” Collins said.

In a previous unanimous vote by the board to remove the Life of George Washington murals at George Washington High School, López said she and Collins were “called out by name the most, sent borderline threatening emails to” in addition to being reached at their homes and workspaces.

Attacks such as these discourage women of color from running for public office as messages such as these “are meant to be scary” and “meant to terrify,” Collins said. “That’s also why it was so powerful to have all of the supervisors come out.”

After the attacks various San Francisco officials assembled at the SFUSD headquarters to stand in support of Collins and López.

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