Florida high school principal fired after controversial Holocaust comments to parent

A high school principal in Florida has been fired after telling a parent he was not allowed to say the Holocaust actually happened.

After a five to two decision by the Palm Beach County school board, William Latson was fired on Wednesday for “ethical misconduct” and “failure to carry out job responsibilities,” The Palm Beach Post reported.

 

(Video: WPTV)

The principal of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton had been reassigned in the summer following the comments he allegedly made in April 2018 when he told a parent in an email that he was not allowed to say whether the Holocaust had actually happened.

“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” Latson wrote to the mother in an email that was later published by the Post.

“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently, my thoughts or beliefs have nothing to do with this because I am a public servant,” he said. “I have the role to be politically neutral but support all groups in the school.”

“I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly,” he said, noting that he did the “same with information about slavery.”

Latson’s comments were deemed “offensive” by the school district, which noted that his views were “not supported by either the School District Administration or the School Board.”

The principal, with 26 years in the county’s public school system, later apologized for the comments.

“I regret that the verbiage that I used when responding to an email message from a parent, one year ago, did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust,” Latson wrote in a statement to the newspaper.

According to The Post:

It’s the first time in years that the school board has voted to fire a principal. Typically, principals who find themselves in the district’s cross-hairs are transferred into non-academic positions or resign before termination proceedings begin.

But the case is likely not over. Latson’s attorney has vowed to appeal the firing in state administrative court, arguing that it was arbitrary and driven by political expediency.

If an administrative law judge agrees, district officials could be ordered to rehire Latson.

“This is a textbook example of a witch hunt,” social sciences teacher Ryan Wells said.

He, along with other teachers from Spanish River High, spoke out in support of Latson, calling out the school board for caving to an “angry mob.”

Administrators reportedly “did not probe the propriety of Latson’s statements about the Holocaust” in the three-month long investigation, but “zeroed in on his conduct after his remarks became public,” The Post reported. The principal, apparently, was terminated but not on the basis of explosive comments about the legitimacy of the Holocaust but on the fact that he did not return messages to school district officials following when his comments became public.

According to the Sun-Sentinel:

Spanish River parents and alumni condemned what they called the insensitivity of Latson’s comments, considering the large population of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Boca Raton and South Florida. More than 10,000 survivors are estimated to live in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the second largest concentration in the United States after New York.

“These are the facts. He is not anti-Semitic. He believes the Holocaust is factual,” Latson’s attorney, Thomas Elfers, told the board.

Latson’s termination is effective Nov. 21 and his 15-day suspension without pay begins Thursday.

Frieda Powers

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