A mother of a pupil was informed by the school principal that the lessons are “not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.”
It is not unusual for mothers to be involved in their child's day-to-day activities at school, so sometimes, they do get in touch with their teacher, just to know how they're doing in class. So, the mother sent a mail to the principal of Spanish River High School, asking how they were making Holocaust education “a priority.” She received a response five days later, in April 2018, according to The Palm Beach Post, but it was nothing as she expected. In the e-mail reply, Principal William Latson assured her that the school had “a variety of activities” for Holocaust education.
But, he told the mother (who wishes to remain anonymous to protect her child's identity) that the lessons are “not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.” She was shocked at the mail, wondering if the Principal was referring to an actual event as a belief. So, she wrote back to him, asking him to clarify his comments. The Holocaust is a factual, historical event,” she wrote. “It is not a right or a belief.”
As a graduate of Spanish River, our entire class immediately was in uproar when we read this report. Especially since we are located in an area where a large population of Jews live. Jewish myself, I am DISGUSTED at my ex-principal.— Adam Roitman (@RoitmanAdam) July 7, 2019
Needless to say, the response she got from him was less than stellar. “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” he wrote, according to email records obtained by The Palm Beach Post through a public records request. “And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs.” He went on to say that as an educator he had “the role to be politically neutral but support all groups in the school.”
Maybe he needs a trip to Germany to see the concentration camps and to the Holy Land to the Holocaust Museum to learn the "facts". This person is an idiot and should not be leading a school in Florida.— Judi Pessaud (@jamagu59) July 8, 2019
"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. This comment is what led to the mother's yearlong effort to address what she believed was a failure as a school leader in his ability to separate truth from myth concerning the genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews under Germany’s Nazi regime in the 1940s. It's definitely not a "belief".
I agree wholeheartedly. But now address the inexcusable behavior of the current administration in refusing to acknowledge so many factual events. And instead pushing false, so-called "alternative facts." You do see the irony, don't you?— Ken Isaacson (@KenIsaacson) July 7, 2019
In an interview, the mother said that she did not doubt that Latson knew the Holocaust was real, but she feared he refrained from speaking about it or educating the students because there could possibly be other parents who deny the Holocaust’s reality and he did not want to confront them. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups, says denying or minimizing the Holocaust is “an essential manifestation of anti-Semitism.”
As a boy I grew up with Family and Family Friends who took part in WWll. Some times they talk about what they saw when Liberating those death camps. I am shocked and sickened that some idiot employed as an Educator can make such a statement(s). betting he is a registered democrat— Sam Hill (@koolmite1) July 8, 2019
The mother just couldn't wrap her head around why the educator would call the Holocaust, a historical fact, as a "belief" to pacify anyone. Latson has been the school's principal since 2011. Later, Latson apologized for the way he expressed himself in his emails in a statement. I regret that the verbiage that I used when responding to an email message from a parent, one year ago, did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust, wrote Latson.
ANTISEMITISM needs to be eradicated from our land and educators who will not teach the true facts of history should be removed from the educational systems of our land...there enough false reporting in the media so we must tell the truth about history, especially bad events!!!— Ronald J Weber (@frron1947) July 8, 2019
It is critical that, as a society, we hold dear the memory of the victims and hold fast to our commitment to counter anti-Semitism, he added, while also mentioning that the school's educational offerings on the Holocaust exceed the state’s requirements. However, after Latson's initial emails became public, over 17,000 people signed a petition to have him fired as the principal of the school.
The despicable atrocities of the Holocaust should never be forgotten!! Anti-Semitism should not be acceptable or tolerated!! Shame on this principal!!!— Chere' (@molecularmick) July 8, 2019
Several Florida lawmakers joined the proposals for Latson's removal, reports Buzzfeed News, and Republican Senator Rick Scott tweeted: Fact that someone charged with educating children would be unable to speak unequivocally on the realities & horrors of the holocaust is incredibly concerning. Our children and communities deserve better. There’s no excuse for anti-Semitism in any form.
You know he may well have the same position regarding evolution and climate change. I would acknowledge that some districts are afraid to state facts unequivocally. Because it will upset some parents. We need to insist on facts being taught everywhere.— Paul Uecker (@farmguy67) July 9, 2019
Florida Politics stated that Weston Democratic Representative Richard Stark issued a statement praising the school district for Latson’s removal. I applaud the decision to remove Mr. Latson from his role in the school, as he has shown himself unable to stand for truth over fiction. However, I am disappointed it took more than a year, and recent media attention, to force change. Furthermore, we will need to see if the Anti-Semitism law recently signed by the governor requires further action against Mr. Latson, the statement read.
I'm not Jewish. I don't think them sacred. It wasn't just the Jews who died in holocaust. Polish ppl - both Jew & non, were slated for extermination. However, Im not playing the forever victim game for Jews, blacks, or anyone. The GOP need to stop being end time fanatics.— ɟємαℓє συтѕι∂є ιи (@urmomfirst) July 8, 2019
Soon after, the School District of Palm Beach County announced on Monday that Latson would no longer serve as principal. Instead, he will be reassigned to an unspecified district position. It was also reported that after learning about the emails, district officials met with Latson and instructed him "to further expand the Holocaust curriculum at Spanish River." He also spent "several days at the United States Holocaust Museum to increase his personal knowledge."
Nothing in the article speaks to him being anti semetic. He attempted to say his professional role & responsibility as head educator for many students with many beliefs required him to act w/ neutrality.— weston.mayhue (@1reasony) July 8, 2019