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Principal who spoke about Holocaust shouldn't have contract renewed, superintendent says

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 7/11/2019 By Michelle Marchante, Miami Herald
a yellow school bus parked in front of a car: Spanish River High School Principal William Latson told a parent that as a public school official he needed to remain "politically neutral" — sensitive to both Holocaust education advocates and people who deny the destruction of 6 million Jews during World War II. The Palm Beach County School District disagreed and on Monday, July 8, 2019 assigned Latson to another, unspecified position. © Jonathan Weiss/JetCity Image/Dreamstime/TNS Spanish River High School Principal William Latson told a parent that as a public school official he needed to remain "politically neutral" — sensitive to both Holocaust education advocates and people who deny the destruction of 6 million Jews during World War II. The Palm Beach County School District disagreed and on Monday, July 8, 2019 assigned Latson to another, unspecified position.

The Boca Raton principal who refused to say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” should not have his contract renewed, the superintendent for Palm Beach County Schools said Wednesday.

“There have been enormous concerns over the principal’s statements and while he has apologized for what he said, it’s not tenable for him to lead the school,” said Dr. Donald Fennoy, the district’s superintendent. “I have lost confidence in his leadership. I removed him from his position as principal and am now making a recommendation to the school board to not renew his contract.”

Fennoy’s video statement late Wednesday afternoon came after the district announced on Monday the reassignment of William Latson, principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton.

Emails surfaced over the weekend of a conversation Latson, 51, had with a student’s parent in April 2018. The emails, first obtained by The Palm Beach Post through a public records request, show Latson saying “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” and that he couldn’t say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event” because he worked at a public school and could not take a position on the matter.

Fennoy’s recommendation to the school board also comes as the district faces pressure from local and state officials to fire Latson.

“I am just shocked that the Spanish River principal couldn’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event, said Rep. Ted Deutch, the Democrat who represents the area. “And I cannot believe the school district labeled this incident and the principal’s leadership a ‘distraction.’”

Fennoy was originally going to address the incident during a live news conference Wednesday but it was canceled because of a scheduling conflict, according to an email the district sent out late Tuesday night.

“Our students need to be taught the facts. Period,” Fennoy said in Wednesday’s video. “ … Our schools can never be “fact neutral” environments. It’s our job as educators to make sure our students learn the facts and learn our history.”

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