A Palm Beach County, Florida High School rehired on Wednesday a principal fired last year for declining to say whether the Holocaust is a historical fact.
Board members for Spanish River High School, on the recommendation of an administrative law judge, voted 4-3 to reinstate William Latson and provide $152,000 backpay, the Palm Beach Post reported. The school board said it made the decision to avoid additional legal costs after spending $106,000 defending its decision to fire Latson.
Latson was fired last October for “ethical misconduct” after he said in an email to a parent that students could choose whether to participate in lessons about the Holocaust, because “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” and it was his job “to be politically neutral,” the Post 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 said in the email.
Karen Brill, one of three dissenting board members, and the board’s only Jewish member, criticized the district over how it handled the case.
“If we rehire Dr. Latson, it is going to be a stain on this school district that will never go away,” Brill said.
Chuck Shaw, a board member who voted in favor of Latson’s termination last year, said he was voting to rehire the principal partly because of an expensive legal battle that would follow if Latson was not reinstated.
“If we decide tonight that we are not going to accept the hearing officer’s final order, we’re likely going to have an appeal and end up in court,” he said.
Latson’s Attorney Thomas Elfers said it was not the responsibility of an administrator to take a position on the factual nature of the Holocaust and that it would have forced Latson to confront other parents, according to the Palm Beach Post.
“Two or three parents were Holocaust deniers; Dr. Latson was pressured by one mother to confront them, and he declined,” Elfers said in a statement. “Confronting parents about their beliefs was outside the scope of his duties.”
“After a century of contention between creationists and evolutionists, most educators have learned to teach the curriculum and to stay neutral,” Elfers said.
Board members said Latson would not work on Spanish River’s campus, but would be a principal for hire, according to the Post.
A survey released Sept. 16 by Claims Conference: Conference on Jewish material claims against Germany, which surveyed citizens in all 50 U.S. states, found that 63% of respondents did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Further, the study found that 48% could not name a single concentration camp out of roughly 40,000 camps. The study also revealed that 56% of millennials and Gen Z could not identify Auschwitz-Birkenau.
“We need to understand why we aren’t doing better in educating a younger generation about the Holocaust and the lessons of the past. This needs to serve as a wake-up call to us all, and as a road map of where government officials need to act.,” said conference president Gideon Taylor.
Nearly 11% of U.S. Millennials and Gen Z respondents think the Jews are responsible for the Holocaust, according to the study.