Hindu American Foundation Finalizes Lawsuit Terms with California State Board of Education
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 22, 2007) The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) finalized terms with the California State Board of Education (SBE) following the Foundation’s victorious lawsuit last fall. The agreement was reached after a face-to-face meeting HAF held with SBE President Ken Noonan on May 8, 2007. In their wide-ranging meeting, Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF’s legal counsel, and Foundation President, Mihir Meghani, M.D., discussed the motivation behind HAF’s landmark lawsuit and the concerns of California Hindu parents that their religion was depicted unfairly in the state’s social studies textbooks.
As part of a post-judgment agreement, the SBE agreed to pay part of HAF’s legal costs for the 2006 lawsuit. HAF brought its suit against the SBE contending that the procedure through which revisions in sixth grade textbooks were reviewed and approved was not conducted under regulations required under the State’s Administrative Procedures Act and contravened the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.
"We felt that a meeting would provide the right forum to go beyond the rhetoric of legal arguments and misunderstandings after litigation, and begin a constructive dialogue towards awareness and education," said HAF Legal Counsel, Suhag Shukla. "Litigation has served historically as a catalyst for social justice, and in this case, the SBE is now in the midst of making the textbook adoption process clear, transparent and fair for members of the public. However, we wished to establish both a professional and healthy relationship with the SBE so that we can deal with any such issues in future amicably."
The judge ruled in HAF’s favor — that the SBE had indeed been utilizing illegal procedures in its adoption of instructional materials for sixth grade social studies textbooks. Under court order, the SBE began the public process for bringing into legal compliance its textbook adoption process in March of this year. At that time, HAF submitted to the SBE twenty-two "comments" that would streamline the textbook adoption procedures and incorporate "critical" protective measures requiring that the process be clear and transparent to members of the public.
In attendance at the May 8, 2007 meeting were the two Foundation representatives, the SBE President and two California Department of Education attorneys.
"In our meeting, we discussed key problems with the past textbook adoption process; the need for scholars with the requisite expertise, especially in Hinduism, to be involved in the process; and the importance of interfaith understanding and respect;" said Dr. Meghani. "We also impressed upon President Noonan the outrage in the Hindu-American community when a non-Hindu academic, with no expertise in Hinduism, was able to politicize an academic process and stymie community efforts."
The Hindu American Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3), non-partisan organization, promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.