Columbia Heights school board member to quit over Muslim comments

Grant Nichols
Columbia Heights school board member Grant Nichols listened to teachers, students and other members of the community as they called for his resignation following comments about Muslims he is alleged to have posted on Facebook.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated 3:20 p.m. | Posted 8:48 a.m.

A Columbia Heights school board member whose Facebook page contained comments disparaging Muslims plans to resign this week.

A post on the Facebook page of board member Grant Nichols on Sept. 6 referred to the bathroom habits of Muslims as "unsanitary." Nichols denied posting the comments, saying a co-worker may have posted it using his phone.

Comments raised concern.
Concerns were raised over a Facebook comment from the account of a Columbia Heights school board member.

The comments sparked student protests in the district and calls for Nichols' resignation from as high up as Gov. Mark Dayton. An effort to oust Nichols from the school board last month failed by one vote.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said early Monday that Nichols would resign effective Tuesday. The group's statement said Nichols apologized for a comment at a meeting with Muslim community leaders and local elected officials.

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Nichols later confirmed his plans to resign, although he insisted that he did not write the remarks on his Facebook page.

State Rep. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, also confirmed that Nichols planned to resign.

Laine, in an interview, said she attended a meeting on Friday with Muslim leaders and Nichols where he announced his resignation.

"His intention was to bring good things to the district, so when that was no longer possible, there were reason for him to correct the situation so the district could go on and continue with their learning," Laine said.

Later in the morning, Laine released a statement saying that Nichols in his resignation letter took responsibility for the online Facebook comments.

We have accepted his apology and applaud his efforts to be an advocate to Muslims everywhere and especially in Columbia Heights," Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR's Minnesota chapter, said in the statement released by Laine.

"We have also accepted the resignation as an additional sign of good faith," Hussein added. "It's important to understand that Muslims are Americans as well and they deserve the same rights and responsibilities."

District Superintendent Kathy Kelly met with Nichols on Monday, according to a district statement. Nichols told Kelly he plans to resign but wouldn't turn in his letter of resignation until after his scheduled press conference on Tuesday.

Officials with the district declined to offer further comment until Nichols' resignation is addressed by the school board at that evening's meeting.

Nichols did not respond to requests for comment.

However, in an afternoon Facebook post he said again that he did not write the controversial comment that appeared on his Facebook page and that Hussein accepted that as truth.

"I will take responsibility over the situation to end this turmoil. So on top of showing my side of the story I am still resigning," Nichols wrote, adding, "Too much hate spilled on both sides and it needs to stop."

Dayton on Monday said he was "very proud of the students, parents, and teachers who stood together" to protest the comments posted on Nichols Facebook page.

MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.