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Rediff.com  » News » Hindu body, California educ board reach agreement over textbooks

Hindu body, California educ board reach agreement over textbooks

June 25, 2007 20:18 IST

Following its victorious lawsuit last year, the Hindu American Foundation has reached an agreement with California's State Board of Education, following a meeting between SBE president Ken Noonan and HAF's legal counsel Suhag Shukla and HAF president Mihir Meghani on May 8. 

As part of a post-judgment agreement, the SBE has agreed to pay part of HAF's legal costs for the 2006 lawsuit.

In their wide-ranging meeting, the two sides 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.

The HAF filed a suit against the SBE over the procedure by which revisions in sixth grade textbooks were reviewed and approved, and contended that it was not conducted under regulations required under the California's Administrative Procedures Act and also contravened the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.

Ruling in HAF's favour, the judge had said the SBE had been utilising illegal procedures in its adoption of instructional materials for sixth grade social studies textbooks.

Following this, in March this year the SBE began the process of bringing into legal compliance its textbook adoption process.

At that time, the HAF submitted to the SBE 22 'comments' it felt 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 our meeting (on May 8), we discussed key problems with the previous textbook adoption process; the need for scholars with requisite expertise, especially in Hinduism, to be involved in the process; and the importance of interfaith understanding and respect,' Dr Meghani said in a press release.

'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.'

'We felt 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 the HAF legal counsel Shukla.
'Litigation has historically served 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.'
A Correspondent