PBC schools superintendent wants principal who questioned Holocaust terminated

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By: Dale King

Contributing Writer 

Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy wants to terminate the former principal of Boca’s Spanish River Community High School because of the “distress, anger and heartbreak” he caused after he told a parent in an email last year that he could not confirm the existence of the Holocaust.

Fennoy removed eight-year Principal William Latson from his position at the school last week and reassigned him to a job within the school district. 

But on Wednesday, Fennoy posted a two-minute video on the school district website saying he had “lost confidence in [Latson’s] leadership. I removed him as principal and have now made a recommendation to the School Board not to renew his contract” when it expires next June 30.

The final call will be up to the school board, which will meet later this month. 

Latson’s email exchange with an unnamed parent who asked questions about Holocaust education programs at Spanish River was made public in articles last week in the Palm Beach Post.  

The school district followed up with a July 8 press release saying that Latson was reassigned “effective immediately” out of “an abundance of concern and respect for the students and staff of Spanish River Community High School.” 

The statement said school administrators held a series of meetings with Latson; counseled him on his inappropriate comment to the parent and instructed him to “further expand the Holocaust curriculum at Spanish River.”  He also spent several days at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

“Despite these efforts, his leadership has become a major distraction for the school community,” the release says. 

Latson “made a grave error in judgment in the verbiage he wrote in an email stating, ‘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,’” said the district.

The press statement went on to say: “In addition to being offensive, the principal’s statement is not supported by either the School District administration or the School Board.”

School officials did not say where Latson was transferred or what he is doing. 

In his comments on video, the superintendent said: “Our children need to be taught the facts of our history, period.” Fennoy added that “our schools can never be fact-neutral environments.”

Latson’s comments have literally sparked a worldwide reaction, with articles and stories appearing in newspapers around the globe and on TV outlets in all parts of the world.

Fennoy noted in his video that Latson apologized for questioning whether the Holocaust truly existed, but it’s not enough. “As superintendent, a neighbor and a colleague, I share the [community’s] distress. We are making sure that the facts are being taught at Spanish River Community High School and at all schools.”

Latson reportedly sent the following apology to school staff: “I have been reassigned to the district office due to a statement that was not accurately relayed… by one of our parents. It is unfortunate that someone can make a false statement and do so anonymously and it holds credibility, but that is the world we live in.”

The Holocaust harangue has moved into the political arena. Office holders including Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott and Florida State Rep. Mike Caruso have called for the principal’s firing. Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer and Democratic State Rep. Emily Slosberg have also issued statements decrying the ex-principal and his comments.

History records that during World War II, Germans under Nazi rule killed six million Jews in concentration camps throughout Germany, torturing most in the process. Survivors were rescued at the end of the war by Allied troops.

The Times of Israel, in a story about Latson, said the Nazis also exterminated another five million people during World War II, including Slavs, Roma, also known as Gypsies, gays and people with disabilities.

Boca Raton has a large Jewish population, and many Holocaust survivors reside in the city and in the West Boca suburbs.