As first reported by The Palm Beach Post on Friday, the principal of Spanish River Community High School (located in Florida), William Latson, has seemingly defended Holocaust deniers when a parent asked about how the school teaches World War II history. As an update: The principal has since apologized. But let’s dig into how this reportedly went down first.
Emails between the parent (who wants to remain anonymous) in question and the principal were sent in April of 2018 and were checked in a public records request by The Palm Beach Post. Latson, the principal, wrote, “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.”
Latson explained that while the school has a one-day lesson, it’s not mandatory. Why? Because some parents “don’t want their children to participate.”
“The Holocaust is a factual, historical event,” the mother reportedly replied. “It is not a right or a belief.”
“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,” he reportedly said in response. “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 apparently then followed this up by saying slavery is regarded the same way.
The original parent, along with a second parent, went on to meet with the principal. Their goal? To talk about including Elie Wiesel’s famous Night, (a Holocaust memoir, widely taught in schools) on the required reading list. They also suggested assemblies about the Holocaust for all grade levels. The superintendent has confirmed that these assemblies are set for the upcoming year, which is definitely a step in the right direction. As The Hill reports, the high school, which is located near Boca Raton, is believed to have one of the largest Jewish populations of students in the country.
And what happened with the principal? As The Huffington Post reports, he reportedly has not been disciplined. He has issued a statement apologizing, noting that the emails “did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust.” He continued that, “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.” He has also now visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to educate himself more.
To be sure: Now is the time to make sure students are taught thoroughly about the Holocaust, and other genocides. Disturbingly, teenagers around the country are using mass genocide to make jokes. Take, for example, the Minnesota teenagers who made Nazi-themed invitations to their school dance. Or the viral story of the Wisconsin teens who seemingly did the Nazi salute before their prom. In 2018, anti-Semitic attacks also rose worldwide, particularly in the United States and Europe. In the U.S. specifically, anti-Semitic attacks more than doubled in 2018.