Grant Nichols, a member of the Columbia Heights School Board, resigned his position on Tuesday after a month of protests about a controversial September 6th Facebook comment about the bathroom habits of Muslims. The Minnesota chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) stood by Nichols when he made the announcement, “his last request was for the district to add foot washing stations and bidets to the bathrooms at the high school,” reported KARE 11 News.
Rep Carolyn Laine, (DFL-Columbia Heights,) and CAIR Executive Director Jaylani Hussein accompanied Nichols for his statement to the press. Last month Hussein had said of Nichols, “This man cannot be trusted to govern our schools, so we will explore as many options as possible,” he told KARE 11. “We cannot have this kind of a leader in charge of our schools while the school is in session.”
The Star Tribune reported that Nichols had met with CAIR and other groups last Friday, prior to the resignation. “Rep. Carolyn Laine said Monday that Grant Nichols agreed to resign from the board during a meeting Friday with her and members of several Muslim advocacy groups, including Jaylani Hussein, head of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.”
Nichols maintained that he didn’t make the comment, which can be seen below, although he took responsibility for the post, which created an upheaval in the school district of 3,100 in the northern suburb of Minneapolis.
The Associated Press reported Monday that a notarized letter from a co-worker backed up Nichols’ claim, “Hussein said he and others in the meeting “accepted Mr. Nichols’ letter indicating that the comment was not his and that someone had maliciously sabotaged his mobile device. We have accepted his apology and applaud his efforts to be an advocate to Muslims everywhere and especially in Columbia Heights.”
As a new advocate for the Muslim community, Nichols made the following request of the district, as reported by The Sun Focus:
“I have learned a lot more about cultural differences in this experience. I realize we need to wok together to accommodate student needs. In that, I request the School Board follow the lead of Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Mankato State University to install a foot washing station and bidet in at least one men’s and one women’s bathroom for at least the high school. As we welcome more students of diversity, this would show the sincerity of our welcome.”
Other higher-education institutions in Minnesota have made similar accommodations, including St. Cloud State University which added a foot washing station inside Atwood Memorial Center about 10 years ago according to the St. Cloud Times. St. Thomas, a Catholic University, installed foot washing stations and Muslim prayer rooms in 2013. Islam has rules about toilet etiquette and foot and hand washing.
Democrat Governor Mark Dayton participated in the protests in the Columbia Heights school district, where 200 students had participated in a walkout, and had also called for Nichols’ resignation.