Florida Holocaust-denying school principal deserved to be fired - opinion

The Palm Beach Post, the school board decided to once again fire the beleaguered principal after receiving more than 1,200 complaints about its decision.

Holocaust class takes place in a school with mostly African-American students. (photo credit: JOSEFIN DOLSTEN/JTA)
Holocaust class takes place in a school with mostly African-American students.
(photo credit: JOSEFIN DOLSTEN/JTA)
While everybody was focused on a certain election these past few weeks, an important decision was made in the Florida school system on an issue that has far-reaching consequences: the validity of the Holocaust and truthfulness in general.
The key development in question was a decision by the Palm Beach County School Board to reverse an October decision to rehire a high school principal whose comments sparked international outrage after he refused to declare the Holocaust a “factual, historical event.”
In Boca Raton, former Spanish River Community High School principal William Latson was fired the first time in October 2019, for Holocaust-denying comments he made in a 2018 email to a parent. Latson subsequently appealed the case to an administrative judge, who ruled in August 2020 that the school board had gone too far in firing him.
He was reinstated on October 7, then fired again on November 2, amid a national outcry. According to The Palm Beach Post, the school board decided to once again fire the beleaguered principal after receiving more than 1,200 complaints about its decision.
As a Jewish father of two young children, I find it abhorrent that an educator who lives in a region with one of the largest Jewish populations in the nation could find himself in such a position. That a seasoned school employee could use language that implied the brutal slaughter of more than six million Jews during World War II might not have occurred is astounding and frightening, especially when there’s growing concern about antisemitism throughout the world.
Latson recorded a YouTube video apologizing for his words and insisting that he is not a Holocaust-denier. But as we know, in a world where truths are so readily dismissed in favor of lies, words still matter.
Here’s what Latson said in his video: “When I wrote to a parent in 2018 that as an employee of Palm Beach County Schools, I could not state that the Holocaust was a historical fact, I was wrong. I apologize to the Palm Beach County community, the school board, the school administration, the parents, students, teachers of Palm Beach County, the Jewish community, and everyone offended or hurt by my mistake.”
Sometimes it’s just too little too late. In fact, a Holocaust curriculum has been mandatory in Florida since 1994, which is yet another reason why Latson’s denial of the systematic murder of Jews and other vulnerable communities is such a travesty.
Today, there are only about 400,000 living Holocaust survivors, and most are nearing the ends of their lives. In just a few short years, there literally will be nobody left to give first-hand accounts of the Holocaust to combat misinformation and baseless denial. History is history, and we must never forget, otherwise we risk the horror happening again.
That is why the ultimate decision by the Palm Beach County School Board was the right move. Sadly, despite that fact that the Holocaust was less than a century ago, a recent survey of 1,000 young people found that 63% didn’t know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and were largely unaware of the tragedy’s massive scope. In fact, 36% estimated the Holocaust death toll at two million people or less, while another 12% said they had “definitely” never heard of the Holocaust or didn’t think they had ever heard of it.
Facts matter, and truth must be preserved for all time. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Holocaust deniers cause lasting damage that includes:
- delegitimizing the suffering of Jews and exacerbating intergenerational traumas by denying Holocaust history,
- codifying antisemitic propaganda under the guise of academic research,
- promoting conspiracy theories about Jewish-controlled governments and media by attempting to undermine a history of horrific suffering, and
- misrepresenting anti-hate campaigns and legislation as “evidence” that Jews control the mainstream media.
The Palm Beach County School Board should be applauded for its courage and for listening to the voices of sanity from within the community. The school board did the right thing by deciding to fire Latson a second time for his irresponsible comments.
Words matter, history matters, and the truth about the Holocaust should not and must not be denied. The school board’s decision shows it, too, believes that to be true.
The Jerusalem Post reached out to William Latson for a comment. He did not respond. 
The author is founder and CEO of a crisis-management firm.