A high school principal in Florida has been fired after telling a student’s parent “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened”.
The Palm Beach county school board voted 5-2 to fire William Latson on the grounds of “ethical misconduct” and “failure to carry out job responsibilities”.
Latson, former principal of Spanish River high school in Boca Raton, was fired because he could not be contacted when “all hell broke loose” after his statement went public, sparking national outrage. Latson was on a previously scheduled vacation in Jamaica when the media learned of his comments in July, reported the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The controversy stemmed from an email exchange with a parent in 2018. A parent sent Latson an email asking how students are taught about the Holocaust, and asking if Holocaust education will be made a priority.
“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” Latson wrote, according to email records obtained by the Palm Beach Post. “And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”
He wrote: “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a district employee.”
Latson said he had to maintain a “politically neutral” position on the genocide, during which Nazis killed 6 million Jews, so he would be sensitive to Holocaust education proponents and Holocaust deniers.
Latson explained his efforts to implement lessons on the Holocaust, but said some families opposed it.
He wrote: “I work to expose students to certain things but not all parents want their students exposed so they will not be, and I can’t force that issue.”
More than 10,000 Holocaust survivors are estimated to live in three area counties, the second largest cluster after New York, the newspaper said.
In 1994, Florida lawmakers voted for the Holocaust Education Bill, which requires that all state school school districts teach students about the Holocaust as part of their public school education. The law applies to primary, intermediate and high schools.
Latson’s lawyer, Thomas Elfers, told the school board: “These are the facts. He is not antisemitic. He believes the Holocaust is factual.”
Elfers also said Latson was being punished for a “poorly worded email”.
A handful of school staffers and parents supported Latson at the vote, with one teacher saying there’s “zero evidence showing wrongdoing” and that “this is a textbook example of a witch-hunt”.