BOCA RATON, Fla. — Boca Raton residents and observers across the country have anxiously awaited William Latson’s reckoning, after the former principal told a parent he couldn’t say whether the Holocaust was real.
That day will come next week when Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy recommends Latson’s termination to the county school board on Oct. 30. That’s 3 1/2 months after his comments came to light, sparking national outcry about Holocaust denial and insufficient education about the world’s genocides. Latson, who had led Spanish River High since 2011, was removed from his post on July 8.
Fennoy told Latson in a letter dated Oct. 11 that a school district personnel investigation found grounds to fire him.
“I hereby inform you that there is ‘just cause,’ which can be substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, to warrant your termination from your position as a Principal,” Fennoy wrote.
The letter does not detail the investigation’s findings but accuses Latson of violating the school district’s code of ethics and the state’s code of professional conduct for school principals.
Fennoy wrote that he will recommend suspending Latson without pay starting Oct. 31 and then terminating him from the district on Nov. 21. The three-week suspension allows Latson time to appeal the termination, the letter says.
Fennoy originally said that Latson’s contract should not be renewed. Florida politicians and a national civil rights group, dissatisfied with Latson’s reassignment to another school district post after his comments became public, had been calling for him to resign or be fired by the school district.
The Palm Beach County School District said it would need to complete its own detailed investigation affording Latson his “due process rights” before potentially ending his employment.
The state Department of Education also was investigating the incident.
“The comments were so shocking and egregious,” said School Board member Karen Brill. “It was an embarrassment to the school district. We need to get some closure on this.”
In 2018, Latson told a parent, who was seeking information about Spanish River’s Holocaust curriculum, that he had to remain “politically neutral” — sensitive not only to advocates of Holocaust education but to those who deny the annihilation of 6 million Jews during World War II.
“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,” Latson wrote to the parent, whose name is redacted from the emails released by the school district.
Both Latson and the parent he emailed could not be reached Tuesday.
“Our schools can never be fact-neutral environments,” Fennoy said in a video released by the school district. Fennoy acknowledged the “distress, the anger and the heartbreak” caused by Latson’s comments.
Latson’s comments enraged many residents of Boca Raton, the home of more than 400 Holocaust survivors and many families whose relatives were killed by the Nazis. South Florida has the second largest number of Holocaust survivors in the U.S., behind New York.
(Sun Sentinel staff writer Lois Solomon contributed to this report.)
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