BOCA RATON, Florida — A Florida school superintendent is recommending that a recently reassigned high school principal should lose his job for telling a student’s mother that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.”
Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy said in videotaped statement Wednesday that he is recommending that the school board not renew former Spanish River High Principal William Latson’s contract when it expires June 30, 11 months from now. US Sen. Rick Scott, local members of Congress and other politicians have called for Latson to be fired.
“Our children need to be taught the facts of our history, period,” Fennoy said. He added that “our schools can never be fact-neutral environments.”
Latson was recently reassigned from the Boca Raton school to a district office job because of the outcry over his email to a mother who inquired last year whether the school’s students study the Holocaust. Boca Raton has a large Jewish community. The emails came to light last week in a story published by The Palm Beach Post.
Latson, who had been at Spanish River for eight years, replied to the mother that as an educator his job was to be “politically neutral.”
“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,” he wrote.
The mother, thinking Latson had expressed himself poorly, wrote back, saying, “The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or belief.”
Latson replied, “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” He added, “You have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.”
The Germans under Nazi rule killed 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis also exterminated another 5 million people during World War II including Slavs, Roma, also known as Gypsies, gays and people with disabilities.
Latson did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment. The message was left on a phone believed to be his. Latson apologized in the Post’s original story, saying, “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.”
But in a farewell message to Spanish River’s staff Monday, he blamed the mother who had written the email for his downfall.
“I have been reassigned to the district office due to a statement that was not accurately relayed to the newspaper by one of our parents,” Latson wrote in the message that was obtained by the Post. “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 Post in its latest story pointed out that Latson is incorrect: it obtained the emails through a public records request and not from the woman.