Florida principal who made Holocaust comments may be rehired this week

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A former Boca Raton, Florida, principal who generated a national uproar for his comments about the Holocaust could be rehired this week. - BRUCE BENNETT/Palm Beach Post/TNS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A former Boca Raton principal could be rehired this week after a judge concluded he shouldn’t have been fired over remarks about the Holocaust that drew national attention.

William Latson was fired from his position at Spanish River High School in October 2019, and the Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday will vote whether to reinstate him and if he’s eligible for back pay.

It was not immediately clear if Latson would return to his original post, but Florida Administrative Judge Robert S. Cohen ruled the School Board should place him in a position that lines up with his qualifications.

In August, the judge ruled that Latson should have been disciplined instead of fired.

Latson lost his job for being unavailable after his comments about the Holocaust generated an outcry. Latson, in an email to a student’s parent in 2018, said he couldn’t say whether the Holocaust happened and, because some parents disputed that it did happen, he needed to remain “politically neutral.”

“I work to expose students to certain things but not all parents want their students exposed so they will not be and I can’t force that issue,” Latson wrote to a parent. “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.”

School Board Superintendent Donald Fennoy told the board Latson last year had committed ethical misconduct by being unreachable when “all hell broke loose” after his comments to the parent became public.

But in August this year, the judge determined Latson was unjustly fired.

The school district “failed to prove that (Latson) engaged in misconduct in office, incompetence, or gross insubordination by a preponderance of the evidence. No just cause for his suspension or termination exists, but a reprimand and reassignment are warranted,” the judge wrote.

“Any competent evidence of Anti-Semitism, either direct or indirect, on Dr. Latson’s part, is sorely lacking,” Cohen wrote. The judge said “the whole mess would have been avoided” if Latson had chosen his words more carefully in his emails to a parent and in a farewell letter to his staff.

Latson couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon. A school district spokeswoman said the district was not in a position to comment Monday afternoon.

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(Sun Sentinel writer Lois K. Solomon contributed to this report.)

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