“If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going to be a stain on this school district that will never go away,” said board member Karen Brill.
By Josh Plank, World Israel News
The school board of Palm Beach County, Florida, voted Wednesday to rescind the termination of William Latson, a high school principal who was fired last year after telling a parent, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.”
In a 4-3 vote, the board approved a recommended order to reinstate Latson, transfer him to a position within the district commensurate with his qualifications, and award him over $152,000 in lost wages.
Prior to the Wednesday’s meeting, the board provided a phone number by which the public could leave brief recorded comments.
Board members sat in silence for over an hour and 40 minutes as the messages were played. Caller after caller condemned Holocaust denial and urged the board not to reinstate Latson.
Many callers expressed horror at the thought that a Holocaust denier would be given the opportunity to impact young minds.
Many callers spoke of how the reality of the Holocaust had personally impacted their lives, robbing them of the opportunity to grow up with grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Superintendent Donald Fennoy recommended that the board approve the reinstatement of Latson.
Board member Karen Brill, who voted against the reinstatement, told Latson, “You have already been tried and convicted in the eyes of the public, and that is something you will carry with you for the remainder of your career.”
“If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going to be a stain on this school district that will never go away. And it’s not just a local stain in Palm Beach County; it’s a national stain,” she said.
Board chair Frank Barbieri, who voted against the reinstatement, said, “Dr. Latson should have known that his statement would cause local, national, and international anger and condemnation, ridicule of the Palm Beach County school district in general and Spanish River High School in particular, which in fact it did.”
Board Member Erica Whitfield, who voted against the reinstatement, said, “I do think we need, as a community, to realize that this is a stain on our community, and it does not represent us as a whole.”
Board member Marcia Andrews, who voted in favor of the reinstatement, said, “When we look at this whole totality of all of this confusion here, I think the district could have handled this better.”
Board member Debra Robinson, who voted in favor of the reinstatement and was one of two board members to vote against Latson’s termination last October, said that the situation was handled “very poorly” once it hit the press.
“After it hit the press, it blew out of control,” she said.
Robinson called Latson’s comments “stupid and inappropriate,” but said, “I don’t think his statements represent the body of his work.”
Board Vice-Chair Chuck Shaw, who voted in favor of the reinstatement, said that his decision was based in part on a “practicality issue.”
Shaw said that if the board doesn’t accept the recommended order, “we’re likely going to have it appealed and end up in court, and six or seven or eight months from now, we’ll be right back here with a new settlement issue.”
Board member Barbara McQuinn did not comment at the meeting, but was one of two board members to vote against Latson’s termination last October.
Laura Loomer, a candidate for congress in Palm Beach County, issued a statement Tuesday calling the situation “a scandal.”
“I urge local residents to join me in expressing their disgust. I further urge the school board, which is set to meet tomorrow, to reject the reinstatement of this odious man,” she said.
“You cannot be a taxpayer-funded educator and express ahistorical, counterfactual claims that are better suited to a Louis Farrakhan sermon than a public classroom,” said Loomer.
The school board voted 5-2 to fire Latson on October 30, 2019.
Latson was principal at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton when he told a parent that students could opt out of Holocaust lessons because “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.”
In an April 2018 email, Latson said, “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.”