A high school principal in Florida who told a parent he couldn’t say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” has been removed from his position. William Latson, who was the principal of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, was reassigned Monday — more than a year after making the remark.
A parent emailed Latson in April 2018 to ask how the Holocaust was being taught at the school, according to the Palm Beach Post, which obtained the emails through a public records request. Latson wrote back the school had “a variety of ways” of educating students about the Holocaust.
“The curriculum is to be introduced but not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs,” Latson wrote to the parent.
The parent wrote back that the Holocaust “is a factual, historical event,” not “a right or a belief,” and asked the principal to clarify his comments.
“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” Latson replied. “And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”
Latson went on in the email, “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. I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly.” He said he does “the same with information about slavery.”
The school district did not initially punish Latson for his comments. Instead, he received counseling and was encouraged to expand his school’s Holocaust curriculum, according to CBS West Palm Beach affiliate WPEC-TV. The district said Latson also visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum to increase his “personal knowledge” of the genocide.
But the district announced Monday that Latson would be immediately reassigned because “his leadership has become a major distraction for the school community.”
“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,” the district said in a statement.
The district said Latson had “made a grave error in judgment in the verbiage” of his email to the parent.
Latson said in a statement to the Palm Beach Post, “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. It is critical that, as a society, we hold dear the memory of the victims and hold fast to our commitment to counter anti-Semitism.”