Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hindu American Foundation Law suit won but books remain !!!!

September 1, 2006

Hindu American Foundation Wins Lawsuit-But Contentious California Textbooks Retained
1. Hindu American Foundation Wins Lawsuit-But Contentious California Textbooks Retained

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA, September 1, 2006: (HPI note: This is a momentous victory for the Hindu community, despite the fact the books remain in the schools. It puts other US states on notice that the kind of adoption process seen in California is not acceptable.)

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) prevailed today in its legal action on behalf of Hindu parents from California against the California School Board of Education (SBE). 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 resul t, 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, et al, Case No. 06 CS 00386, Judge Patrick Marlette of the California Superior Court upheld HAF's claim that the textbook adoption process was flawed and illegal. Judge 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, Judge Marlette rule d 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, Esq., legal counsel of HAF who coordinated the lawsuit with attorneys at Olson Hagel and Fishburn, LLP 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."

Despite stating that he considered the declarations and correspondences attesting to the inaccuracies and discrepancies in the Hinduism section of adopted textbooks from several scholars that actually teach Hinduism, including a past president of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and current co-chairs of the Hinduism Unit of the AAR, Judge Marlette held that the textbooks were not necessarily illegal in terms of the standards set forth by the education code because they were not "grossly inaccurate."

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. Current standards, they held, are grossly outdated and inaccurate.

So while the process followe d in adopting the contentious Hinduism sections, and all recently approved textbooks in California, was illegal-as HAF had argued-the judge apparently decided against a sweeping ruling that could open the door to other lawsuits discarding textbooks in the most populous state in the United States. HAF attorneys are considering their options for an appeal of this lawsuit to force revisions to the Hinduism section in the contested textbooks.

Importantly, Judge Marlette read versions of the textbooks that already had been significantly improved in their coverage of Hinduism due to the efforts of the Hindu Education Foundation and Vedic Foundation. This success was in spite of the efforts of a subsection of non-Hindu academics historically antagonistic to practitioners of Hinduism, and a coalition of Indian communist and anti-Hindu groups.

While the immediate goal of revising textbooks beyond the changes was unmet, HAF leaders expressed satisfaction that their efforts will ultimately benefit all Californians in having reinstated public accountability to the actions of the SBE.

"Over 14 years ago, in 1992, another California court ordered the SBE to revamp its textbook adoption processes to bring it in compliance with the law and all of thi s time, the SBE has been ignoring that. It's taken HAF's lawsuit to put the SBE's proverbial feet to the fire," said Shukla. "HAF, and the efforts of a talented team of attorneys at Olson Hagel and Fishburn, have ensured that the SBE will end its pattern of misleading California public school students by acting arbitrarily, and in the case of Hindus, unfairly and inequitably."

Judge Marlette in his ruling also rejected outright an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief against HAF and Hindu parents filed by a coalition of anti-Hindu and communist groups, as it lacked merit and relevance.

"Our lawsuit was the first collective effort by a wide array of Hindu American groups to counter a major injustice perpetrated against them," said Mihir Meghani, M.D., President of HAF. "Our action, enabled entirely by the support of Americans living throughout our nation, is a testament to the Hindu community's potential and determination to ascertain a secure and confi dent future for the next generation of Hindu Americans. Today, Hindus have a voice, and they have asserted that they will never again remain silent spectators as they shape their destiny in this great country."


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