Hindu American Foundation Demands Fairness in California School Textbook Adoption Process

 

Sacramento, CA (Feb. 14, 2006) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), through its law firm, issued a  letter to the California State Board of Education (SBE) last Thursday, February 9, 2006, demanding a fair and open process in the ongoing textbook adoption process. HAF became involved in the process when it became apparent that the California Department of Education (CDE), SBE and its staff improperly allowed certain individuals to undermine the procedures available for public debate and resolution and failed to adequately address a substantial number of the Hindu edits.

“We at HAF are asking the SBE to ensure that the latest subcommittee, formed to assess the Hindu edits and corrections, act in compliance with all of the requirements provided by law. Specifically, the committee must fulfil the mandate of the education code which prohibits the adoption of instructional materials that adversely reflects on one’s creed or ancestry,” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., Legal Counsel for HAF. “We’re requesting that the SBE correct numerous procedural errors that have already occurred and consider fairly the views of the Hindu American participants and practicing Hindus.”

Of key concern to HAF was that the remaining proceedings of the subcommittee be conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. The Bagley-Keene Act requires that certain state agency meetings be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed. It also requires that the public be given a minimum of ten (10) days notice of the time and location of such meetings and that agendas be made available. To date, staff of both the CDE and the SBE have had several private communications and closed-door meetings with advocates opposing the Hindu participants, while denying HAF and the participating Hindu groups notice or access. These actions, HAF asserts, have subverted the public process and deny all notions of fairness.

“We believe that the recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Committee to the SBE on November 8th and then reaffirmed at a public hearing by the Curriculum Commission on December 2nd, were based on an accurate understanding of science, history and the sentiments of those people in California that actually practice the Hindu faith,” said Ms. Shukla. “It is patently unfair, and perhaps illegal, for a private, closed-door meeting between Board members and an advocate opposing the Hindu participants to undermine these publicly resolved recommendations.”

HAF has also brought into question the reliance of the CDE and SBE on a professor of Sanskrit as an expert on Hinduism and ancient India. “It’s akin to consulting a professor of Latin about Christianity or Roman history,” asserted Ms. Shukla.

Attorneys from the law firm of Olson, Hagel and Fishburn, LLP, met on behalf of HAF with the Chief Counsel of the SBE on Friday, February 10, 2006, to discuss further the issues outlined in Thursday’s letter. They will remain in close communication with the SBE and CDE until an equitable resolution is reached.