After being removed from his position and reassigned this summer, a Florida high school principal was fired over his remarks that he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.”
The decision was made at the Palm Beach County School Board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 30. CNN reported Thursday that Dr. William Latson will be terminated from Spanish River Community High School on Nov. 21 following a 5-2 vote.
The district said there was “just cause” for firing Latson based on ethical misconduct and failure to carry out job responsibilities.
The decision stemmed from a controversy that erupted in July when an email Latson sent a parent in April 2018 surfaced. The mother had asked the principal of the Boca Raton, Florida, school how the Holocaust was taught.
“Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs,” read an excerpt of the email obtained by the Palm Beach Post through an open records request. “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.”
Latson’s email to the mother led him to be reassigned in July, with Superintendent Donald Fennoy asking the school board the following day not to renew the 11-year principal’s contract, according to the Miami Herald. Alumna and Spanish River parent Allison Castellano now serves as the school’s principal.
In an executive summary from Fennoy read at Wednesday’s board meeting, the official said he decided to end Latson’s employment not because of his controversy-inducing remarks but because he “failed to respond to communication from his supervisors and failed to assist the district in addressing the serious disruption caused by the aforementioned email and news coverage.”
During the meeting, several of Latson’s former colleagues spoke in support of him. Omni Freeman, who currently teaches at Spanish River, hailed Latson as a man who “rises to the top as the best principal I’ve had throughout my teaching career.”
Ryan Wells, a 13-year educator in the Palm Beach School District, slammed the “oversensationalized” coverage of Latson’s email.
“This is a textbook example of a witch hunt,” Wells said after outlining “defamatory” and “systemically racist ignorance” of the reaction to Latson’s remarks.
Latson’s attorney, Thomas Elfers, also noted his client is an award-winning high school principal with a 26-year career with Palm Beach schools.
“He’s not anti-Semitic,” Elfers said of his client, who was present at the meeting. “He believes the Holocaust is factual.”
The district said Latson had been advised about his choices and he visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and learned more about the Nazi Germany-led genocide of an estimated six million European Jews, CNN reported. Elfers told the Palm Beach Post he plans to head to state administrative court to appeal the board’s decision. Latson has not publicly commented on the matter.