Spanish River High Principal Ousted After Holocaust Denial Comments, Actions Under Investigation

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer

Boca’s Spanish River Community High School principal William Latson will not return to his post at the start of the school year this month.

Whether or not his contract with the district will be renewed is now under investigation.

Latson was removed from his position after a Palm Beach Post article exposed an email exchange between Latson and an unnamed parent, who asked questions about Holocaust education programs at Spanish River.

Latson made comments in the email to the parent that he could not confirm the existence of the Holocaust, which caused an uproar in the community.

Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy removed Latson from his position and reassigned him to an undisclosed job within the school district.

Fennoy originally wanted to terminate the former principal of Boca’s Spanish River Community High School because of the “distress, anger and heartbreak” he caused.

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 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.”

Now, Latson’s actions will be reviewed through a personnel investigation before the district can decide whether he should lose his job.

“Dr. Fennoy planned to recommend to the School Board the non-renewal of Mr. Latson’s contract,” the district said in a statement. “However, Mr. Latson’s subsequent actions require the District to investigate.”

It is unclear how long the process of the investigation will take.

Since the incident was made public by the Post last month, the district 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 said.

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.

In his comments on video, the superintendent said: “Our children need to be taught the facts of our history, period.” Fennoy added, “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 also 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.

Whatever the outcome of Latson’s job is, the school will have a new principal.

Fennoy selected Omni Middle School principal Allison Castellano for the job.