School board member resigns to end 'turmoil' over Muslim comment

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After weeks of mounting pressure from citizens and officials, a Columbia Heights school board member accused of writing an insensitive comment about Muslims has resigned.

Grant Nichols officially stepped down from his position at Tuesday evening's school board meeting, according to KARE 11.

Nichols has been criticized for a comment made on Facebook in early September from his account. The post targeted the bathroom habits of Muslims and called them “unsanitary.”

It has since been deleted. (MPR News has a screengrab of the comment here.)

The comment led to an uproar in Columbia Heights and the larger community. Students and staff at Columbia Heights High School staged a walkout and the school board debated twice whether to force Nichols off the board.

Nichols has repeatedly said he did not write the comment himself, and said someone at his workplace used his phone to post the Facebook comment under his name.

Nichols apologized for the hurt the controversy has caused the Muslim community, the school district and its students.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Nichols said he resigned to put an end to the "turmoil" in the school district.

 “This district has been an important part of my whole life. I have loved being a part of it, and I’m glad for the ways I was able to make it better, both as an active community member and in my short time on the school board. I take responsibility for the online Facebook comment about some of my co-workers at my full-time job in Chanhassen that was offensive to the Muslim community. I apologize to them all for the hurt it caused. ... Let’s get back to moving forward with progress for all individuals in Columbia Heights Public Schools."

Nichols' intention to resign became public Monday, a few days after he met with local Muslim leaders and politicians.

“We have accepted [Nichols'] apology and applaud his efforts to be an advocate to Muslims everywhere and especially in Columbia Heights," said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein in the release. "We have also accepted the resignation as an additional sign of good faith.”

On Tuesday evening, Nichols applauded the students for standing up for their beliefs. He also suggested the district install foot-washing stations in the high school to accommodate the needs of Muslim students, the Star Tribune reports.

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