HAF Legal Team Writes to CDE to Investigate Assault Allegations

Amy Bisson Holloway
General Counsel
California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

Dear Ms. Amy Bisson Holloway,

We write on behalf of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a national nonprofit advocacy organization for the Hindu American community to bring your attention to concerns regarding allegations of assault leveled at Hindu American community members at the State Board of Education (SBE) hearing held at the Department of Education.

During public testimony at the hearing on Thursday, November 9, several individuals identifying themselves as members or supporters of South Asian Histories for All (SAHFA) testified on the public record that members of their coalition were assaulted by Hindus in the lobby of the CDE. A further allegation was made that because of this treatment one member of their group suffered, for the first time, an epileptic seizure.

Upon hearing the allegation, we inquired with the various Hindu community and parent groups who participated in the hearing to verify.

We were informed that while a few hundred Hindu American parents and children from diverse backgrounds were patiently and respectfully waiting in line since 6:30 a.m. for their turn to testify before the SBE, members of South Asian Histories for All, including an individual identified as Thenmozhi Soundararajan, suddenly tried to cut ahead of many people already in line and bypass CDE staff and security personnel. Ms. Soundararajan and other SAHFA members were reportedly being disruptive and acting aggressively, and as a result were escorted out of line and warned by CDE staff and security personnel.

Ms. Soundararajan and her colleagues, however, continued arguing angrily with CDE staff and security, and she was then removed from the building. Ms. Soundararajan was eventually allowed to return to the building after an hour, after her colleagues pleaded with CDE staff. Even after being let back in, she reportedly continued to act disrespectfully to the CDE staff and officials and other members of the public waiting in line.

We request further investigation into this matter by the CDE and are available to assist in identifying individuals on any security footage, or facilitating introductions for eyewitness accounts.

Should it be found that no assault occurred, or can be verified, we request that those portions of testimony be struck from the public record, any archives posted publicly have those portions struck or deleted, and a public clarification be made, as these allegations are being promoted through the media and social media posts with the intention of defaming the reputation of Hindu American community members.

There are also publicly posted allegations stating that SAHFA members were being prevented from testifying at the hearing. However, according to information we have received, some members and supporters of SAHFA were actually seen testifying multiple times, in violation of the State Board’s public comment rules. We would also welcome further investigation into this allegation and clarification for the public record.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Suhag Shukla, Esq.
Executive Director and Legal Counsel

Samir Kalra, Esq.
Senior Director