A former high school principal in Boca Raton, Florida, was fired on Wednesday as a result of emails he sent to a student’s parent in April 2018 that appeared to cast doubt on the historical truth of the Holocaust.
The Palm Beach County School Board voted 5-2 to terminate William Latson’s employment effective on November 21, according to records from the meeting posted online.
According to the district, there’s “just cause” for firing the former principal, based on ethical misconduct and failure to carry out job responsibilities.
After a parent emailed Latson in April to ask him how the school teaches students about the Holocaust, Latson responded, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a district employee.”
The school district also specifically criticized Latson for being slow to respond to school district officials during the week after his comments came to light.
“While his email was receiving global news coverage, Mr. Latson failed to respond to communications from his supervisors and failed to assist the District in addressing the serious disruption caused by the aforementioned email and news coverage,” a statement from the school district said.
Latson and his attorney did not respond to emails and phone calls for comment Wednesday evening.
In an email to high school staff obtained by CNN, Latson had written that his comments to the parent were “not accurately relayed.”
According to CNN affiliate WFLX, Latson was taking a vacation in Jamaica as the news of his emails surfaced.
Latson had been reassigned to another position
Latson has had a long career in education, rising to become principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida in 2011.
In July, the School District of Palm Beach County reassigned Latson to a new post working in a “District position,” according to a statement.
Latson’s comments came to light just days earlier, when the Palm Beach Post published the excerpts from the emails after obtaining them via an open records request.
According to the paper, Latson told the parent, “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.”
Attached to Latson’s firing notice was an October 11 letter that Superintendent Donald E. Fennoy wrote to the former principal informing Latson that he planned to recommend his termination at a school board meeting scheduled for October 30.
Fennoy’s letter stated that Latson had until November 20, the day before his termination is official, to appeal the decision.
The district said Latson had been counseled about his choices and that he had traveled to Washington, DC, to visit the US Holocaust Museum and learn more about the mass genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime that took the lives of 6 million Jews in Europe.
The district also affirmed that the Holocaust did in fact occur, and said it had previously asked Latson to expand his school’s Holocaust curriculum.
“Every generation must recognize, and learn from, the atrocities of the Holocaust’s incomprehensible suffering and the enduring stain that it left on humankind,” Palm Beach County school board Chairman Frank Barbieri Jr. said in a statement in July.