A principal at a Florida high school may lose his job after he told a student's mother that "not everyone believes the Holocaust happened."
Palm Beach County Superintendent Donald Fennoy said in a statement Wednesday that he is recommending William Latson, the former principal of Spanish River High School in Boca Rotan, Florida, to be terminated after his contract ends next June. Latson was reassigned to a different job in the district after he made controversial statements defending Holocaust deniers.
“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.
It all began when a parent emailed Principal William Latson to ask him how the school is working to make sure all students are educated about the horrors of the Holocaust.
She did not expect the email he received back.
Latson explained that the school offered a "variety of activities for students and parents each year" pertaining to the Holocaust, but they are optional.
"The curriculum is to be introduced but not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs," Latson replied in an email obtained by the Palm Beach Post.
The parent, who has chosen to remain anonymous, asked Latson to clarify his previous email and said, "The Holocaust is a factual, historical event...It is not a right or a belief."
That's when Latson said he will remain neutral on the subject because he is an educator and other parents do not believe the Holocaust is historical fact.
"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 so they will react differently, my thoughts or beliefs have nothing to do with this because I am a public servant," he said.
"I can't say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in the position to do so as a school district employee," Latson continued, saying he also takes the same neutral stance when discussing slavery.
The parent was shocked by Latson's decision not to present the Holocaust as historically factual, even if he personally believed it was.
The mother pushed for reforms at the school but told the Palm Beach Post some of them were not implemented. She asked that all 10th-grade students be required to read "Night" a Holocaust novel written by survivor Elie Wiesel.
This past year, all 10th-grade students read the book, according to the Palm Beach Post.
She also pushed for all students to attend mandatory yearly school assemblies about the Holocaust. She said the school agreed to the assemblies. However, the school said they were not implemented due to time constraints and they will be instated next year.
Latson told the Post he regrets how he worded his emails.
"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," Latson wrote.
"It is critical that, as a society, we hold dear the memory of the victims and hold fast to our commitment to counter anti-Semitism," he continued.
He also said Spanish River High's curriculum on the Holocaust exceeds the state's requirements.
Latson also decided to spend four days studying the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
He said his time at the museum served as "a poignant lesson and reminder of one of the most horrific events in human history."
However, tensions reheated after the parent had a follow-up meeting with Latson this last May.
She said Latson once again said that the Holocaust is a "personal belief" and he would not take a public stance on the issue as a district employee.
The school district denied he made those comments.
Latson told the mother he felt like she was unfairly accusing him of anti-Semitism.
The mother said she did not believe he was an anti-Semite, but that, "you are protecting those who don't believe in the Holocaust."