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April 24, 2016

Embattled N.J. school board member steps down over anti-Muslim Facebook posts

Gladys Gryskiewicz, a member of the Elmwood Park Board of Education, allegedly instructed Muslims to 'go back to your own country'

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042416_ElmwookPark Source/Yelp

Elmwood Park Memorial Middle/High School in Bergen County.

After several months of intense criticism and calls for her dismissal, a New Jersey school board member officially resigned last Friday over a series of offensive anti-Muslim Facebook posts.

Gladys Gryskiewicz, a member of the Elmwood Park Board of Education, had been under pressure after a series of posts in January and February that directed Muslims to "stay in your desserts (sic) and follow your religion in your own countries," Religion News Service reports. In another post, Gryskiewicz wrote, "Go back to your own country; America needs to get rid of people like you."

In response to the posts, several Muslim groups and North Jersey state lawmakers, including Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic), called for Gryskiewicz to resign.

"The comments that have repeatedly surfaced online by Ms. Gryskiewicz are wildly inappropriate and completely unbefitting of a member of a public school board or any elected or appointed office holder, for that matter. As someone charged with representing the needs of every child in the school system, it is disconcerting to hear her singling out an entire group as unwelcome in this country. Children learn what they live..."

Humza Yousuf, a Muslim student at Elmwood Park Memorial High School, even launched a petition and collected nearly 700 supporters seeking the ouster of Gryskiewicz, who in another post allegedly wrote that president Obama should be "sent back to Africa with his true Muslim family," according to Pix11 News.

“I was personally offended along with many other students of Elmwood Park,” said Yousuf. “This is the United States of America. There isn’t one national religion, all religions are welcome in America. All colors are welcome in America.”

Gryskiewicz, who had resisted stepping down, claimed at one point she was concerned for the safety of her family and didn't recall ever writing some of the alleged posts. Her lawyer, however, acknowledged earlier this month that "she knows she wrote it" and "wishes she could take it back." 

“I have no disrespect for Muslims,” Gryskiewicz told Pix11 last week, prior to her resignation. "I could have used better wording but it wasn’t towards the Muslim community.”

Speaking to The Record, Yousuf applauded the eventual outcome and said it's a testament to collective action, though he was bothered by Gryskiewicz' refusal to offer an apology.

“I think she definitely took the coward’s way out,” Yousuf said.

The resignation comes amid an ongoing dispute between New Jersey and the Obama administration over a federal Syrian refugee resettlement program. Last November, in a letter to the president, Gov. Chris Christie said that New Jersey would not accept any more Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people. On Wednesday, the Christie administration notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement that any future participation in the program will be handled by non-profit organizations rather than the state of New Jersey.