Florida Principal: "Not Everyone Believes the Holocaust Happened"

A high school principal in Boca Raton, Florida, told a parent that "not everyone believes the Holocaust happened," according to email records obtained by the Palm Beach Post through a public records request.

The email came amid a series of exchanges between the parent, who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity, and Spanish River Community High School principal William Latson.

The parent, a mother, had emailed Latson in April 2018 to inquire about the school's educational plan for teaching the Holocaust.

Latson replied, according to the newly released email messages, that the school sponsored a "variety of activities" to promote Holocaust education.

"The curriculum is to be introduced but not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs," Latson said in his emailed response.

The mother was reportedly stunned and sent a follow-up email to see if Latson had perhaps simply misspoken.

In 1994, the Florida legislature passed a new law requiring school districts to incorporate Holocaust education as part of public school instruction. The state's educational statutes require that topics like these be taught "using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historical accuracy."

In his reply, Latson expounded on his beliefs about the propriety of Holocaust education in public schools.

"Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened," he wrote. "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."

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum defines Holocaust denialism as "an attempt to negate the established facts of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry."

"Holocaust denial and distortion are forms of antisemitism," the museum explains.

Latson implied that a robust endorsement of Holocaust education would violate his oath to be "politically neutral," adding that he does work to expose students to "certain things" without transgressing the will of individual parents.

"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," he explained. "I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly. I do the same with information about slavery, I don't take a position but allow for the information to be presented."

He acknowledged this was a "touchy topic."

According to a LinkedIn page appearing to belong to the principal, Latson received a Bachelor of Education in 1992 from the University of Florida, where he specialized in elementary education and teaching. He then went on to obtain a Master of Education in 1998 at Florida Atlantic University, focusing on the social and philosophical foundations of education. He obtained several other educational certificates over the next few decades, including one from Harvard University.

Latson's email signature reads: "Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

After their exchanges, the mother embarked on a yearlong campaign to address what she felt was insufficient understanding at the highest level of the school of the importance of Holocaust education.

She expressed to the Post that "she didn't doubt that Latson knew the Holocaust was real... but she feared his reluctance to say so stemmed from a desire to avoid confronting parents who deny the Holocaust's reality."

"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 paper in a written statement.

According to the Post's report, the mother engaged with district leaders about potential reforms, some of which were adopted and some of which were ultimately rejected.

Latson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copies of the Holocaust Memorial Museum identification cards
Copies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum identification cards are seen July 11, 2000. Alex Wong/Getty

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