The South Florida principal who stirred national controversy after refusing to say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” was fired Wednesday during a school board meeting at the recommendation of the district’s superintendent.
With no discussion, the school board for the School District of Palm Beach County voted 5-2 to end William Latson’s more than 20-year-employment with the district.
Latson, who was the principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton for 11 years, was reassigned in July after emails he wrote to a mother’s inquiry in April 2018 surfaced. A day after his reassignment, Superintendent Donald Fennoy asked the School Board not to renew Latson’s contract. Allison Castellano, a Spanish River alumna and parent, was later appointed as the school’s new principal.
Among the comments made in the email: “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.” Latson also told the parent that because he worked for the public school district he could not take a position on whether the Holocaust was real.
Latson — and the district— were put in the hot seat, with local and state officials calling for Latson to be fired and an explanation into why the district took so long act. At the time, Fennoy said he had lost confidence in Latson’s leadership.
However, Fennoy said he recommended Latson’s firing not because of the comments he made but because “while the email was receiving global news coverage, Mr. Latson 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,” Fennoy explained in an executive summary given to the board.
Fennoy said Latson’s actions also violated the school board’s ethics code and the state’s code of conduct for principals.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, several parents and teachers spoke in favor of keeping Latson as a principal.
“Dr. Latson rises to the top as the best principal I’ve had throughout my teaching career,” said a Spanish River teacher whom Latson hired last year.
But Latson’s almost spotless record wasn’t enough to sway the School Board. The decision was the right one, according to the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
“Latson’s abhorrent denial of the Holocaust is unacceptable, and there is no place in our community, and certainly not in our education system, for such unethical ignorance,” Federation CEO Matt Levin said in a statement.
Latson, who was sitting in the front row during the meeting, did not comment and walked out in tears, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Latson’s attorney told the Palm Beach Post that he will appeal the decision in state administrative court.
Miami Herald staff writer Michelle Marchante contributed to this article.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated how the new principal was appointed. The School Board voted and the superintendent recommended her.