Columbia Heights students walk out over Facebook post about Muslims
by Tim Post
Hundreds of Columbia Heights High School students walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest a recent Facebook comment that appeared on School Board Member Grant Nichols' account.
The students were also unhappy that the school board failed to censure or remove Nichols at its meeting Tuesday night.
A Sept. 6 comment on Nichols' Facebook account, which has since been deleted, disparaged the bathroom habits of Muslim people, calling them "unsanitary." Nichols has denied writing the comment and hasn't responded to interview requests.
Last week he said he suspected someone at his workplace used his phone to write the Facebook post. He also said he disagreed with the content of the comment.
However, John Larkin, the chair of the Columbia Heights School Board, countered that claim, saying Nichols told him he had written the post.
Wednesday's walkout lasted about 45 minutes. Students returned to class by 10 a.m., but their concerns remain.
"I feel very disrespected," said Sherouk Mohamed, a Muslim and a senior student at Columbia Heights High. "The comment was just quite rude and it was off guard hearing from a school board member as well."
Mohamed said the comment was especially offensive considering the diversity of her school. Minnesota Department of Education figures show that students of color make up 75 percent of the Columbia Heights High School student body.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of Minnesota's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group would push for the removal of Nichols from the board.
"The (Muslim) community is saddened obviously over the fact that Mr. Nichols was not removed from the board," Hussein said. "But we do welcome the overwhelming support and unity over this issue."
The Columbia Heights School Board meets next Tuesday for its regularly scheduled meeting. Several students at Wednesday's walkout and demonstration said they plan to attend.
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