Florida High School Principal Removed After Questioning the Holocaust
“I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event”
The principal of a public high school in Palm Beach, Florida has been removed from his position after it was revealed that he questioned the factual existence of the Holocaust in an email to a parent and defended the right of Holocaust deniers not to have lessons on its atrocities “forced” on them.
Until his dismissal on Monday, William Latson had served as principal of Spanish River High School in Palm Beach, Florida since 2011, a school with an enrollment of approximately 2,500 students and a high Jewish population. But when the mother of a student emailed him in April 2018 asking routine questions about how the school planned to ensure that students were educated on the topic of the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews and many others were systematically slaughtered, Latson’s response came as a shock to her.
The principal stated that the school does conduct “a variety of activities for students and parents” on the subject of Holocaust education, including a school assembly and a special day’s lesson for 10th graders. So far so good. But Latson went on to state that these lessons are “not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs” and explained that “We advertise it to the 10th grade parents as their sic are some who do not want their children to participate and we have to allow them the ability to decline.”
Unsure whether she had fully understood Latson, the mother wrote back stating “The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief.”
But astoundingly, Latson disagreed. “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” he wrote, “And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”
The principal added that as an educator he must “be politically neutral but support all groups in the school.”
“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,” the public school principal declared.
Incensed by Latson’s response, the mother, who asked not to be named in order to keep her child’s identity anonymous, spent the following year attempting to ensure that students at Spanish River High receive appropriate education in the horrors and truth of the Nazi Holocaust. She and another parent met with Latson who seemed somewhat receptive to her suggestions that Holocaust education take place at every grade level, but the mother states that her child told her the promised initiatives were not being carried out. After a year of pushing for further education with unsatisfying results, the mother took the issue to higher-ups in the school district, stating that she had lost confidence in Latson’s leadership.
Palm Beach County School District administrators initially attempted to handle the situation privately, but changed their minds once the Palm Beach Post published a major story on the incident. In a statement, the district said that Latson’s “leadership has become a major distraction for the school community” and that it is “therefore, in the best interest of students and the larger school community to reassign Mr. Latson to a District position.” The nature of Latson’s new assignment was not announced.
“In addition to being offensive,” the district’s statement added, “the principal’s statement is not supported by either the School District Administration or the School Board.”
Karen Brill, the only Jewish member of the Palm Beach County School Board, went on the record to say that she was very upset about Latson’s comments. “The Holocaust is a historical fact and I am appalled that anyone in our district believes that its teaching may be opted out of,” she said.