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Palm Beach County School Board rescinds decision to rehire former Boca Raton principal following Holocaust controversy

William Latson, former principal of Spanish River Community High School, says he's 'not a Holocaust denier'
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Posted at 6:21 AM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 18:10:15-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach County School Board on Monday voted unanimously to rescind its decision to rehire the former principal at Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton in the wake of a Holocaust controversy.

Dr. William Latson was fired last year following an investigation into controversial comments he made about the Holocaust.

Last month, the school board took a judge’s recommendation and voted 4-3 to reinstate Latson within the School District of Palm Beach County.

But on Monday, following weeks of outrage from the community, school board members voted 7-0 to rescind last month's decision to reinstate Latson.

That means, according to a school district spokeswoman, Latson will return to suspended without pay status pending final action of the school board on Nov. 10. That's when a modified order by the board to terminate Latson will be entered.

Latson has been working remotely since the school board's previous vote on Oct. 7, which called for him to be reinstated, according to a school district spokeswoman.

Before the official vote at Monday's meeting, school board members Barbara McQuinn and Chuck Shaw said they were planning to rescind their votes.

"What Dr. Latson did was open the door for the students whose parents are Holocaust deniers to, for generations to come, deny the atrocity of the Holocaust," McQuinn said.

"Enough is enough," Shaw said. "I am absolutely not in favor of Dr. Latson being in a position."

When the school board voted last month to reinstate Latson, board members Frank Barbieri, Karen Brill, and Erica Whitfield all voted against reinstating him.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education

The move to rescind the vote was first on the school board’s Oct. 21 meeting agenda, but board members never got to discuss the issue because there were so many comments from the public.

Board members were tasked with listening to more than 1,000 recorded public comments between the Oct. 21 meeting and Monday's meeting.

Just last week, Latson released a video in which he apologized for his comments about the Holocaust.

"When I wrote to a parent in 2018 that as a school district employee I could not state that the Holocaust was a historical fact, I was wrong," Latson said. "I apologize to the Palm Beach County community, the school board and school administrators, the teachers of Palm Beach County, the parents, the students, the Jewish community and everyone offended by my mistake. I am not a Holocaust denier. I have never been a Holocaust denier. I am sorry that my comment caused people to think that. Palm Beach County schools has an exemplary Holocaust education, which I ensured was taught to every students while I was principal at Spanish River High School."

WATCH LATSON'S APOLOGY:

'I am not a Holocaust denier,' William Latson says in public apology

Latson's apology was played for school board members at Monday's meeting.

"There can be no deniability of these extraordinary tragedies that took place that hurt so many millions and millions of lives and continue to have a lasting effect on future generations," said Michael Hoffman, the president of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.

Hoffman said he applauds the school board's latest vote and remains focused on working with the district for better education and tolerance against anti-Semitism.

"That all 160,000 students in the Palm Beach County School District and all our teachers and our administration all have the opportunity to learn about the horrors that took place during the Holocaust and are making sure this never happens again," Hoffman said.