Young Israel Statement on Florida School Board’s Termination of Principal After Holocaust-Related Controversy

November 3, 2020

The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) today praised the Palm Beach County School Board’s decision to terminate the employment of a high school principal in the wake of troubling comments he made concerning the Holocaust.

 

The board voted unanimously to remove William Latson, the principal of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, from his position after he told a parent several years ago that he “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” and insinuated that the Holocaust was a “belief,” rather than an actual event.

 

Latson was fired last year as a result of his controversial remarks, but he appealed the termination and an administrative law judge determined that the school board should not have fired him without first reprimanding him. After voting last month to reinstate Latson, the school board scheduled another vote for this week, at which time the board reversed its earlier decision and voted 7-0 to remove him.

 

“Holocaust denial is a vile form of anti-Semitism and it is unconscionable that a high school principal would legitimize it by positing that the occurrence of the Holocaust is a question of faith and not of historical fact,” said NCYI President Farley Weiss, who lives in Boca Raton, FL. “Mr. Latson was responsible for overseeing Holocaust education at his school and yet he felt that the Holocaust was a matter of factual dispute. The refusal of Mr. Latson to duly acknowledge the heinous barbarism of the Nazis and recognize the extraordinarily documented fact that six-million innocent people were brutally murdered during the Holocaust sadly furthers the terrible and extremely painful fabrication that is propagated by hate-filled Holocaust deniers that one of the darkest chapters in world history did not actually occur. Educators such as Mr. Latson cannot be enabled to sidestep the issue of the Holocaust by turning a blind eye to history and ignoring the unimaginable and indescribable pain and anguish that befell the Jewish people, and we therefore commend the members of the Palm Beach County School Board for their decision to terminate him.”

 

The incident that ignited the controversy began in April 2018 when a mother sent an email to Latson asking how her child’s school was teaching its students about the Holocaust. Latson replied that while the school had “a variety of activities” relating to Holocaust education, the lessons are “not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.” Upon receiving the shocking response from her child’s principal which intimated that the Holocaust was a “belief” as opposed to a historical event, the mother sent Latson an email saying that, “the Holocaust is a factual, historical event…it is not a right or a belief.” He replied that, “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.” He also wrote that, “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.”

 

For the past 108 years, the National Council of Young Israel has ably served the broader Jewish community. With more than 25,000 member families and approximately 135 branch synagogues throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel, the National Council of Young Israel is a multi-faceted organization that embraces Jewish communal needs and often takes a leading role in tackling the important issues that face the Jewish community in North America and Israel.