A Florida principal who told a parent he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event” was fired Monday for the second time, with the school board reversing a decision from last month to rehire him.
William Latson made the comments to a parent in 2018 and was later removed from the Boca Raton high school where he had been principal. In October 2019, the school board voted 5-2 to fire him, citing not just the comments, but Latson’s refusal to answer questions about them.
Latson sued, saying he had been wrongfully terminated, and in August, a judge concluded that he should have been reprimanded, and not fired.
The board voted October 7 to rehire him, believing that the alternative would be to face a protracted and costly legal battle. He was given an administrative job, rather than one with students, and was to receive $152,000 in back pay, according to the Palm Beach Post.
The board was divided 4-3, with the only Jewish board member arguing strenuously against Latson’s rehiring. “If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going be a stain on this school district that will never go away,” Karen Brill said during the meeting.
An additional, final vote was postponed to hear criticism from the public. There was a strong national backlash, with the board receiving outraged comments from Holocaust survivors, their families and others, according to Sun Sentinel.
Simultaneously, the board learned that the court ruling regarding Latson’s firing had merely been a recommendation, the report said.
Those factors prompted board members Marcia Andrews, Debra Robinson, Barbara McQuinn, and Chuck Shaw to change their votes, and the motion to fire Latson once again was approved unanimously.
Palm Beach County is heavily Jewish, and Spanish River Community High School, which Latson led, has many Jewish students. In an email to a parent who asked about the school’s Holocaust education curriculum, Latson had written, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in the position to do so as a school district employee. You have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”
Palm Beach County is also the site of a primary challenge to longstanding Democratic congresswoman Lois Frankel by right-wing Republican Laura Loomer, in a matchup that has divided local Jews, and reflects deep divides in American politics.
JTA contributed to this report.