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Posted at 06:28 PM ET, 11/01/2012

Council puts hold on charter school board member’s reappointment over articles on multiculturalism

The D.C. Council has temporarily halted the reappointment of a member of the D.C. Charter School Board after council members became aware of articles he wrote in which he appeared to challenge how multiculturalism is taught in school.

Don Soifer has served on the charter board since 2009, and had been expected to easily be confirmed for a second term after being renominated by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).

But Soifer’s nomination hit a major roadblock Thursday after council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) referred his colleagues to articles Soifee co-wrote in recent years about multiculturalism.

One article for the conservative The Daily Caller Web site, titled “Radical multiculturalism is a growing problem in public schools,” called on parents “to combat the destructive force that multicultural dogma is exerting on the teaching of American heritage and values.”

“The expanding use of such textbooks is a dramatic example of the influence of radical multiculturalists over what is taught in public schools around the country,” wrote Soifer, an analyst at the libertarian Lexington Institute. “These multiculturalists are espousing a conviction that the teaching of history must be liberated from white Eurocentric or Judeo-Christian ‘oppressive’ perspectives.”

McDuffie, who was elected to the council this spring, said the writings were discovered by a legal fellow working in his office.

Though the council was slated to vote on Soifer’s nomination Thursday, McDuffie and council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) convinced council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) to delay the vote.

“That article raised eyebrows for me and there are other things I would like to explore before I give my support,” McDuffie said. “In his role as charter school board member, he approves new charter schools, so it’s important we do our due diligence.”

Soifer did not return calls seeking comment.

“The members of the D.C. Public Charter School Board stand firmly in support of Mayor Gray’s renomination of Don Soifer to the Board,” read a statement from the board Thursday. “Don has a distinguished three-year record of tireless service to the Board and to the 57 charter schools and more than 35,000 students that we serve. He has been a consistent voice on the Board in support of parental choice and quality options for D.C. families, and has in both word and deed been a champion of the diversity of our charter school community.  Throughout his term he has distinguished himself as one of the most active and devoted members of the Board – all of whom are volunteers – spending countless hours on the ground inside schools and in community meetings getting to know school leaders and talking with D.C. parents. We wholeheartedly support his re-nomination to the D.C. Public Charter School Board for a second term.”

In a separate article published in the Washington Times in 2011, Bob Holland, also a policy analyst at the Lexington Institute, and Soifer appeared to draw broad comparisons between multiculturalism and Muslim extremism.

“Europe’s leaders seemingly have awakened from a long slumber to discover that state-sponsored multiculturalism threatens the fabric of their societies,” the article stated. ”Their somber conclusions should cause reflection by Americans about the potential threats to national identity here and how educational institutions could play a constructive role in preserving our shared values.”

By  |  06:28 PM ET, 11/01/2012

 
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