HAF Wins Partial Victory in Lawsuit over Textbooks

Sacremento, CA (September 1, 2006) - The Hindu American Foundation prevailed on Sept.1 in its legal action on behalf of Hindu parents from California against the California School Board of Education. But in a mixed ruling, the demand by HAF that the SBE be required to throw out the currently approved textbooks and revisit the entire textbook adoption process was denied.
HAF brought the lawsuit contending that the procedure through which the SBE reviewed and approved revisions in sixth grade textbooks, especially as to their presentation of Hinduism, was not conducted under regulations required under the California Administrative Procedures Act and contravened the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. As a result, HAF held, anti-Hindu academics were illegally allowed to bias the process against Hindu parents and students in California resulting in textbooks that presented the debunked Aryan Migration Theory as fact, misrepresented caste as central to Hinduism and left the impression that Hinduism devalued the role of women.
In his ruling on Hindu American Foundation, et al., v. California State Board of Education, Judge Patrick Marlette of the California Superior Court upheld HAF’s claim that the textbook adoption process was flawed and illegal. Marlette wrote that the California SBE, “at all times relevant to this matter has been conducting its textbook approval process under invalid ‘underground regulations.’” He withheld an opinion on the violation of the open meeting act deciding that since the entire process was already “invalid” a specific ruling would be redundant.
In his conflicted ruling, however, Marlette ruled that the “relief” demanded by HAF—that is to reject the textbooks adopted under an illegal process—would be disruptive not only to those affected sixth graders, but potentially every California public school student using any and every textbooks adopted under the SBE’s unlawful policies. Judge Marlette wrote, “The Court therefore determines…that respondent [SBE] should be permitted a reasonable opportunity to correct the deficiencies in its regulatory framework governing the textbook approval process…while maintaining the current system in the interim.”
"We are pleased, of course, that Judge Marlette agreed with our position all along that the process in adopting the textbooks was flawed and illegal,” said Suhag Shukla, legal counsel of HAF who coordinated the lawsuit with attorneys at Olson Hagel and Fishburn in representing HAF and Hindu parents.
"It would seem logical that if the process was illegal, then the resulting textbooks must be tossed out and the adoption process repeated. Apparently, Judge Marlette is reluctant to reject possibly millions of books, in addition to those in this case covering sixth grade social studies, that could be implicated and allowed them to stand for now—that is very disappointing.”
HAF attorneys interpreted the ruling to mean that the focus of Hindu parents and HAF in California and other states should shift to changing the standards and framework that set the criteria that must be covered in any textbook covering Hinduism. If those standards accurately reflect the Hinduism that most Hindus practice, then the textbooks will necessarily comply.
HAF attorneys are considering their options for an appeal of this lawsuit to force revisions to the Hinduism section in the contested textbooks.