A Boca Raton high school principal who came under fire for questioning whether the Holocaust occurred has been removed from his position, according to Palm Beach County school officials.
“It is out of an abundance of concern and respect for the students and staff of Spanish River Community High School that school district administration has decided to reassign Principal William Latson effective immediately,” a statement from the school district, posted Monday on Twitter, said.
School officials said Latson made a “grave error in judgment in the verbiage” he used in April 2018 when responding to a mother's inquiry about Holocaust education at the high 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,” Latson wrote.
Latson’s statement was “offensive” and “is not supported by either the school district administration or the school board,” county school officials wrote in Monday’s statement. After school officials learned of the exchange, Latson was “counseled about the choices he made” in response to the parent’s email messages, according to the statement released Monday. “He also spent several days at the United States Holocaust Museum to increase his personal knowledge,” school officials wrote.
Despite the efforts, “his leadership has become a major distraction for the school community,” and Latson was reassigned to a district position, officials said. Since 1994, state law has mandated that public schools teach about the history of the Holocaust. The news about Latson’s comments sparked an outcry from Jewish lawmakers.
“We expect more from our educators than to cater to those who deny the truth that millions of Jewish people died in the Holocaust. Every new generation must learn from the horrors of the Holocaust, because that is the only way we can safeguard against it ever happening again,” state Rep. Richard Stark, a Weston Democrat who is chairman of the Florida Jewish Legislative Caucus, said in a press release.
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, called for Latson's immediate termination. “Imagine if Principal Latson had said in an email to an African-American parent that he could not and would not state that slavery is a factual, historical event. He would have been gone -- one hundred percent justifiably -- by the end of the day,” the legislators, who are Jewish, said in a joint press release.
Fine and Book also demanded a "full and complete investigation into how such anti-Semitic conduct could have been tolerated and covered up by the school district's bureaucracy for more than a year." They also pointed to a new state law that requires Florida public education institutions treat discrimination against Jewish people in the same manner as racial discrimination.