The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly praises the Palm Beach County School Board for rescinding its recent decision to rehire the holocaust-denying William Latson, former principal of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton. Latson had been fired in 2019, after he refused to say that the Holocaust was “a factual, historical event.”
After Latson was fired in 2019, he sued. In August 2020, an administrative law judge concluded that Latson should have been reprimanded, not fired, and recommended that Latson be rehired with back pay. Last month, the School Board voted to rehire Latson and reassign him to an administrative position. He would receive $152,000 in back pay, in addition to his six-figure salary.
The public outcry to the School Board’s decision was immediate and strong. In an op-ed published in the Miami Herald, ZOA’s Florida Executive Director Sharona Whisler condemned the School Board’s “appalling decision,” writing: “It sends the message that Holocaust denial is a viable position and that knowing and telling the truth about the deadliest genocide the world has ever witnessed is not an imperative.”
The School Board decided to revisit its decision at a meeting two weeks ago, which continued to today. Issuing several Action Alerts, the ZOA mobilized the community, along with the Gross Family Center for the Study of Antisemitism and the Holocaust, urging them to contact the School Board and attend the School Board’s meetings, to express their opposition to Latson’s rehiring in any capacity.
The School Board received more than 1,300 public comments – an unprecedented number on any issue that has ever come before the School Board – overwhelmingly calling for Latson to be fired. ZOA Florida board member Professor Richard Cravatts delivered ZOA’s statement at the School Board meeting, which said, in part: “This Board entrusted Mr. Latson, first and foremost, to be an exemplary educator, and a model for the teachers in his school. Rehiring him in any capacity sends the dangerous message that Holocaust denial is a viable position. We implore you, do not send this dangerous message. Do the right thing and rescind the vote to rehire William Latson”.
Palm Beach County public high school student Yael Hamaoui, the daughter of ZOA Florida board member Allen Hamaoui and Renee Hamaoui, also delivered a public comment at the meeting, which said in part: “Antisemitism in schools, both in the form of Holocaust denial and otherwise, is a real problem that I myself have faced. By rehiring Latson, you risk alienating the students of Spanish River who have expressed their fear at the prospect of his rehiring as well as those of other high schools who see the precedent you set. Will you validate the antisemitism directed towards me and my peers? I cannot believe you’re even considering it. Please, don’t let this happen– don’t let us down.”
Plainly responding to the community’s outrage, the School Board voted unanimously today to rescind its prior vote to rehire Latson. Acknowledging the mistake she made previously by voting to reinstate Latson, School Board member Marcia Andrews said, “I heard your calls, I heard your voices . . . This is for the children of Palm Beach County!”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, a child of holocaust survivors who lost most of his family to the genocidal holocaust, and ZOA Florida Regional Director Sharona Whisler strongly praised the School Board for making the right decision: “The School Board has now sent the right and critically important message to students and their families – that Holocaust denial is never acceptable and will not be tolerated, especially from someone in a leadership position who is supposed to be a model for students and educators. Surely, no school board would ever tolerate an educator who denied the American enslavement of Blacks. We thank our many friends and supporters in Florida for coming forward and speaking out against the holocaust-denying Latson’s rehiring. Your efforts were critical to the School Board ultimately doing the right thing.”