PISD

Assistant superintendent Katrina Hasley (pictured) addressed controversy surrounding history textbooks in a Tuesday meeting. 

Hindu Plano residents are accusing Plano ISD of using history textbooks that give racist, pro-colonial depictions of the Hindu faith.

These allegations were leveled after the district’s Board of Trustees sourced community feedback on approved textbooks, and since this happened, Hindu residents of Plano ISD have sent the board a petition with source recommendations.

“We went through six of them, and we found that four of them were not worthy of inclusion,” said Rajesh Verma, whose son is a Plano ISD student and was enrolled in a class that used one of these books. “You have kids being ashamed and embarrassed. They don’t know to challenge, so that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Verma said one of these textbooks, titled Ways of the World: 4th Edition and published by BFW/Macmillan, inaccurately identified caste systems as a core part of the religion. He further alleged that others covered the Indo-Aryan Migration Theory, which some criticize as being Eurocentric and sympathetic to British colonialism.

“[The textbooks] have repeatedly used the word ‘cult’ to refer to us,” Verma said, adding that they also use the word “Brahmanism,” which many Hindus and the Hindu American Foundation consider a pejorative slur.

Following an hour-long public comment period that included speakers such as Verma, Plano ISD Assistant Superintendent Katrina Hasley addressed these criticisms in a Tuesday meeting in saying, “When textbooks and materials are adopted, they are not the curriculum. We never use the textbook cover to cover as if that were the whole curriculum for the course. Textbooks and materials are adopted to support the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which is what our courses are designed around … We use resources to pull in activities and pages of content that’s relevant that go along with units of study.”

Nonetheless, Hasley said the district “did work with the Hindu community organization” (although she did not specify the name of the organization) and is taking concerns surrounding the textbooks into consideration.

“Our social studies department has agreed to consider the addition of some scholarly articles to support additional perspectives and viewpoints on some of the items that they have brought forth as concerns,” she continued. “We have also agreed to work with the group to find out which terms are slanderous or inappropriately offensive.”

Still, Verma said the district has still failed to rectify the matter in a substantive way.

“If we’re being offered token gestures, that’s not good enough for us,” he said. “We are eager to collaborate with the district in good faith. However, the process must be transparent, and the Hindu American community of Plano ISD must be actively involved when the curriculum topics that pertain to us are developed.”

Plano ISD director of communications Lesley Range-Stanton said in an email to Star Local Media that the district would not offer any more comment beyond Hasley’s rebuttal.

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