Palm Beach Co. School Board votes to rehire principal fired over Holocaust comments

West Palm Beach, FL
- The Palm Beach County School Board voted to 4-3 to reinstate William Latson, the former principal of Spanish River High School.

The School Board voted to rehire him and give him about $152,000 in back pay.

Latson was fired last year after making controversial comments about the Holocaust in an email to a parent, where he wrote, "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."

The former principal claimed his words were twisted and blamed the parent.

However, an administrative law judge ruled in August that Latson should get back pay and be rehired by the school district. Judge Cohen wrote that Latson "did not commit incompetence, misconduct, or gross insubordination." Instead, Latson committed "several acts of poor judgment which had significant, disruptive impact on the School Board's operations and the public's perceptions but that conduct did not rise to the level of just cause for suspension or termination."

"Frankly I am appalled that this board would be asked to entertain allowing Dr. Latson to return to the school district of Palm Beach County in any capacity," said Karen Brill, School Board member.

“He had the opportunity to make things better. Instead, he just threw gasoline on a fire that was burning throughout the entire world. Especially in my district. He had the opportunity to fix that and he didn’t do it. He dug in his heels and said I’m not gonna do it, I’m not gonna apologize," said Frank Barbieri, Jr., School Board Chair.

His exact job title has yet to be determined. A school district spokeswoman said he will work in the Academics Division and will not be around children. Latson will not return as principal at Spanish River High School.

According to another district spokeswoman, school board members Frank Barbieri, Jr., Karen Brill, and Erica Whitfield voted not to rehire Latson. Board members Barbara McQuinn, Marcia Andrews, Vice-Chair Chuck Shaw, and Dr. Debra Robinson voted in favor of rehiring him.

Latson's attorney released a written statement Wednesday night following the vote by the School Board.

"Dr. Latson, an African American male, had been employed by the School District for 26 years and had served as principal at Spanish River High School for eight years. He had never been reprimanded or disciplined. During all those years he received 26 performance evaluations with the highest possible scores available at the time, except for one in 2002 which was rated “at expectation,” (one step lower than “exceeds expectation”). Beginning in 2012, he raised the Spanish River grade from a B to an A.

Though he would later be accused of anti-Semitism, he had implemented Remembrance Day activities at Spanish River to commemorate the Holocaust.

The observance consisted of an auditorium event featuring films and speakers who were Holocaust survivors, followed by lunch where students could sit with the speakers while listening to thematically appropriate music, followed by break-out sessions in classrooms for more personal interactions.

"Dr. Latson would drive the aging and sometimes fragile speakers from one classroom to another in a golf cart and introduced them to students. He had books about the Holocaust on a shelf above his desk, one of which was autographed by the author. Eleven times he had escorted class trips to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. Many have condemned him as a Holocaust denier. He isn’t. He never was. He is a great guy and a great educator," wrote Thomas Elfers, Latson's attorney.

Source: cbs12