Columbia Heights school board member will quit over anti-Muslim comments
School board member takes responsibility for anti-Muslim comments.
by Paul Walsh and Beena Raghavendran
October 12, 2015
Embattled Columbia Heights school Board Member Grant Nichols will resign on Tuesday, ending months of controversy after an anti-Muslim comment attributed to him was posted on Facebook.
Nichols came to his decision in a meeting Friday with Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR); other Muslim community leaders; state Rep. Carolyn Laine, and City Council Member Donna Schmitt.
Nichols still says that someone else used his account to make the Facebook comment, and he presented a notarized letter at the meeting from an individual taking blame for the comment.
"The resignation came in the spirit of uniting the community and not creating any more aggravation for a situation that has already been resolved," said Ahmed AL-Beheary, founder of the National Egyptian American Society and a facilitator at the meeting.
Nichols has said he wouldn't name the person he contends used his smartphone to make the posting at the center of the rift.
Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, said Monday she "participated in this resolution over several days.
After discussing and working together, Grant signed his resignation statement there, to be effective on Tuesday, when he presents it at the school board meeting."
Nichols did not return calls seeking comment.
On Monday afternoon, Nichols posted on Facebook saying he alone made the decision to resign.
"Too much hate spilled on both sides and it needs to stop," he wrote.
The social media post at the center of the controversy criticized the hygiene of Muslims.
"No they are just unsanitary by bringing water into a bathroom and making a mess," the comment said, continuing to say that Muslims wash their feet and armpits in bathroom sinks and no one says anything about it.
According to Laine, Nichols said in his resignation letter, "I take responsibility for the online Facebook comment about some of my co-workers at my full-time [direct mail and marketing] job in Chanhassen that was offensive to the Muslim community. I apologize to them all for the hurt it caused. I care very much about the students of this district; so in order to end the current turmoil for the good of the district and its students, I will resign on Tuesday, October 13, 2015."
During the meeting, Nichols produced a notarized letter from the co-worker acknowledging having made the Facebook posting in question.
Laine said that everyone in the meeting read the notarized letter and that there's "no reason to doubt that the person did write it, signed it and had it notarized." She said the co-worker's letter is not being made public, nor is its author.
Hussein said he and the others in the meeting "have accepted his apology and applaud his efforts to be an advocate to Muslims everywhere and especially in Columbia Heights."
The school district hasn't received anything concrete regarding Nichols' resignation, said district spokesman Casey Mahon. Nichols met with Superintendent Kathy Kelly on Monday morning and made his intentions known, according to a district statement.
School board member Laura Palmer, when told Monday of Nichols' decision, said, "I think it was inevitable. ... I guess it could have been done weeks ago. It was a lot of pain that everyone went through, Mr. Nichols himself."
The comment attributed to Nichols was posted Sept. 6 on a Star Tribune article shared on Facebook.
The incident sparked an investigation and a Sept. 15 special school board meeting, at which members fell one vote short of forcing Nichols to resign. After the vote, students, teachers and administrators staged a walkout.
Gov. Mark Dayton visited the high school to praise students for protesting and urged Nichols to step down. The next week, the board passed a resolution calling for his resignation. There, Nichols refused to resign, calling the situation unprofessional.
Related Topics: Pressure Tactics Against Free Speech, Willful Blindness & PC Problems
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