Florida high school principal William Latson reportedly told the mother of a student, “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” regarding the history curriculum.
According to 2018 emails obtained by The Palm Beach Post, Latson of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Fla. said that Holocaust education is “to be introduced but not forced upon individuals, as we all have the same right but not all the same beliefs.”
Latson was answering the mother’s question on how that portion of WWII history was prioritized — the school holds annual Holocaust assemblies and focused one-day lessons for 10th graders. “We advertise it to the 10th grade parents as [there] are some who don’t want their children to participate and we have to allow them the ability to decline,” warned Latson in the email.
That mother, who did not want the newspaper to publish her name, reportedly told Latson, “The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief.”
However, the principal insisted, “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently, my thoughts or beliefs have nothing to do with this because I am a public servant. I have the role to be politically neutral but support all groups in the school...”
He added, “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 says his philosophy remains the same for slavery.
The mother (and another parent) met with Latson and administrators, challenging them on supposed lessons that her child claimed weren’t being taught, reported The Palm Beach Post. “I came out of there feeling so much worse,” the mother told the paper. “How do you pick and choose history?”
The mother asked that students read the memoir Night by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel and for Holocaust assemblies for all grade levels. Since, the school has implanted the reading material but not the assemblies.
“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 told The Palm Beach Post on Friday. “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.”
Officials from the Spanish River High School, The School District of Palm Beach County, and the school board did not return outreach from Yahoo Lifestyle. Deputy Schools Superintendent Keith Oswald told the Palm Beach Post that assemblies are slated for the 2019-2020 school year. He says that Latson was not disciplined for his comments.
Last summer, Latson reportedly took a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for “a poignant lesson and reminder of one of the most horrific events in human history.”
“It was a hastily, poorly written email that he apologized for,” Oswald told The Palm Beach Post. “That’s some of the challenge that we face when we email back and forth instead of picking up the phone.”
Karen Brill, the only Jewish school board member told The Palm Beach Post, “The Holocaust is a historical fact, and I am appalled that anyone in our district believes that its teaching may be opted out of.”