A high school principal in Florida who refused to acknowledge the Holocaust as “a factual, historical event” was fired on Wednesday by the Palm Beach County school board.
The board voted 5 to 2 to accept the recommendation of the district superintendent, Donald E. Fennoy II, to fire the principal, William Latson, who worked at Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, according to Julie Houston Trieste, a spokeswoman for the school district. Mr. Latson can appeal the decision, which will take effect Nov. 21.
“These are the facts: He is not anti-Semitic; he believes the Holocaust is factual,” Thomas Elfers, Mr. Latson’s lawyer, told board members on Wednesday, according to The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Mr. Elfers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Mr. Latson had led Spanish River High for 11 years before he was reassigned in July after emails he sent to a student’s parent in April 2018 came to light.
“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,” Mr. Latson wrote in one of the emails, which were obtained by The Palm Beach Post. He said he had to separate his personal views about the Holocaust from his job as a public school official.
“I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly,” he wrote. “I do the same with information about slavery.”
Mr. Latson’s comments drew an uproar, particularly among parents and school alumni in South Florida, home to a large Jewish population, including Holocaust survivors.
Thousands of people signed on to a Change.org petition calling for Mr. Latson’s termination. School board officials, who said Mr. Latson had become “a major distraction,” removed him from his position and reassigned him to an unspecified job.
After the reassignment this summer, Superintendent Fennoy recommended that the school board not renew his contract, according to a school district spokeswoman.
On Wednesday, in recommending that the principal be terminated, the superintendent said Mr. Latson had “failed to respond to communications from his supervisors and failed to assist the district in addressing the serious disruption” from the email and news coverage.
The Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, which represents survivors of the Holocaust as well as relatives of those who were killed, voiced its agreement with Mr. Latson’s termination on Wednesday.
“We are grateful for Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s leadership and commitment to a thorough investigation resulting in this vote by the school board,” Matthew C. Levin, the group’s chief executive, said in a statement. “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.”