The Boca Raton principal who refused to say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” should not have his contract renewed, the superintendent for Palm Beach County Schools said Wednesday.
“There have been enormous concerns over the principal’s statements and while he has apologized for what he said, it’s not tenable for him to lead the school,” said Dr. Donald Fennoy, the district’s superintendent. “I have lost confidence in his leadership. I removed him from his position as principal and am now making a recommendation to the school board to not renew his contract.”
Fennoy’s video statement late Wednesday afternoon came after the district announced on Monday the reassignment of William Latson, principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton. He’s worked at Spanish River for 11 years.
Emails surfaced over the weekend of a conversation Latson, 51, had with a student’s parent in April 2018. The emails, first obtained by The Palm Beach Post through a public records request, show Latson saying, “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” and that he couldn’t say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” because he worked at a public school and could not take a position on the matter.
Latson did not return a request for comment.
Fennoy’s recommendation to the school board also comes as the district faces pressure from local and state officials to fire Latson.
“I am just shocked that the Spanish River principal couldn’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event, said Rep. Ted Deutch, the Democrat who represents the area. “And I cannot believe the school district labeled this incident and the principal’s leadership a ‘distraction.’”
The Anti-Defamation League supports Fennoy’s recommendation of not renewing Latson’s contract, according to Sheri Zvi, the league’s regional director in Florida. They originally supported reassigning Latson, she said, until they saw the goodbye message he sent Spanish River’s faculty and staff.
“This is a powerful moment for the community, the entire state and the entire country to come together in understanding of the need for Holocaust education,” Zvi said to the Miami Herald.
Zvi hopes this incident pushes Florida’s Department of Education to establish a reporting system to track Holocaust education throughout the state. She also encourages people to report any antisemitic incident or activity they see through the ADL’s website.
Currently, the league has been working with the district to implement the Echoes & Reflections Holocaust education initiative, which has reached more than 60,000 educators across the country.
Fennoy was originally going to address the incident during a live news conference Wednesday but it was canceled because of a scheduling conflict, according to an email the district sent out late Tuesday night.
“Our students need to be taught the facts. Period,” Fennoy said in Wednesday’s video. “...Our schools can never be “fact neutral” environments. It’s our job as educators to make sure our students learn the facts and learn our history.”