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Calls for Spanish River High School principal to resign grow amid Holocaust controversy

Posted at 4:51 AM, Jul 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 16:52:21-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Calls for a local high school official to resign are growing following a Palm Beach Postarticle that showed emails from 2018 between a principal and parent that question if the Holocaust really happened. The principal, William Latson, later apologized.

In an email, Latson told a concerned parent he couldn’t say the World War II genocide was “a factual, historical event,” adding that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened,” The Post reported

Following public backlash after the article was published, Latson apologized. “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,” Latson said in a statement to the newspaper.

Samuel Ron spent 29 months in five different camps during the Holocaust. His brother died in one of those camps.

“You go in the shower room, and you don’t know what’s going to come out of the shower, gas or water. But you know, when water comes out, we start singing,” he said.

The 94-year-old survived what Spanish River High School Principal William Latson questioned.

“By now, there are very few of us here, so we have to tell this story,” Ron said.

The Palm Beach Post article published Friday uncovered a 2018 email exchange between a parent and Latson in which he considered the Holocaust something one believes as opposed to historical fact. The parent was asking about how the school teaches the Holocaust.

“The Holocaust isn’t a debatable point, it’s not philosophical,” said Matthew Levin, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. “I don’t think that in this particular case that the principal is denying the Holocaust per-se but he’s certainly asking questions that he should not be asking. It’s not his job to do anything but teach the facts and political correctness doesn’t get in the way of the facts.”

Benjamin Szlamkowicz says his grandfather survived the Holocaust. He started a petition calling for Latson to resign. It has more than 2,500 signatures as of Sunday night.

“It’s been very busy, it’s just growing. It’s growing because a lot of people think the same way, that he should not have made these comments, especially when he’s a principal or an educator,” said Szlamkowicz.

Latson later told WPTV's news partner The Palm Beach Post he regretted what he wrote in that email, saying it does not reflect his personal or professional views.

School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri, in a statement Sunday night, reaffirmed the district’s commitment to Holocaust education, touting its nationally recognized Holocaust-related curriculum. He said the situation was being investigated at the highest level of the district.

“I have no problem with anybody who denies the Holocaust, I can deny the sun shines right now. You’re not going to do nothing about this. We have Neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism. We’re back to 1938 in Europe,” said Ron.

WPTV has requested an on-camera interview with Latson to discuss the calls for his job but he has not responded.