Holocaust 'Neutrality' Equals Educational Bankruptcy
"We have let our public education fall into the hands of people with frightening agendas."
Apparently some well-deserved light and heat was too much for the Palm Beach County School District to resist. The firestorm generated by Spanish River Community High School principal William Latson’s refusal to acknowledge that the Holocaust actually happened — because being a school employee requires him to remain “politically neutral” — could no longer be swept under the rug. On Monday, the school district announced that Latson is being reassigned “out of an abundance of concern and respect for the students and staff of Spanish River Community High School.”
Sounds good, but the timeline reveals otherwise. That’s because the email exchange on the subject between a concerned parent and Latson took place more than a year ago. As the Palm Beach Post explains, a concerned mother wanted “to make sure that her child’s school was making Holocaust education a ‘priority.’ The response she received five days later, in April 2018, was anything but routine.”
That’s because while Latson assured her that the school had “a variety of activities” for Holocaust education, those lessons are “not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.”
The mother, who didn’t want to be named to protect her child’s identity, was taken aback. But she gave Latson the benefit of the doubt, hoping he had expressed himself poorly. She wrote another email asking him to clarify his position. “The Holocaust is a factual, historical event,” she wrote. “It is not a right or a belief.”
Much to her shock, Latson dug himself a deeper hole in an email dated April 18, 2018:
The clarification is that 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, my thoughts or beliefs have nothing to do with this because I am a public servant… I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual history event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee… I do the same with information about slavery…
Ordinarily, the astounding admission that reality itself is being held hostage to political sensibilities would been seen as the wholesale corruption of a public school’s core mission it truly is. But as Latson reveals, we are not living in ordinary times. Much of the American Left embraces “my truth,” as well as the “tailoring” of history, most of which is about making sure students understand that America is an inherently flawed nation requiring fundamental transformation.
This has been going on for decades, yet somehow people remain surprised. “It would be shocking anywhere in the United States for a public high school principal to embrace Holocaust denial, but for it to happen in a majority-Jewish city in the most heavily-Jewish county in the country defies belief,” writes columnist Thomas Lifson. “Yet, it not only happened in Boca Raton, Florida, and it took over a year of discussion for the principal to back down and apologize for embracing a crackpot belief that is favored by Jew-haters of all stripes, from the mullahs of Iran to the neo-Nazis of Europe and America.”
The principal? If anyone thinks Latson was acting alone, think again. After the email exchange, the mother pushed for a face-to-face meeting. In May of 2018 Latson obliged, and she, along with a second concerned mother, met with Latson and a group of school-district administrators who supervise him. Latson presented them with a list of educational efforts undertaken at Spanish River HS with regard to Holocaust. Yet the mother told Latson her child had informed her many of those efforts never reached the classroom. And yet again during the meeting, Latson refused to state the Holocaust was an actual event.
His position angered the second mother. “I came out of there feeling so much worse,” she said. “How do you pick and choose history?”
One PC-filtered choice after another, while hiding from accountability for more than a year, that’s how.
In a follow-up meeting with district administrators, the mother proposed two changes. One was to have all 10th-grade English students read Night, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir. Second, she proposed convening assemblies about the Holocaust for every grade level. According to the mother, Latson agreed to the first request, and district administrators agreed to second — but failed to follow through. Deputy Schools Superintendent Keith Oswald said the assemblies weren’t put in place this past year due to time constraints, but they will take place in the upcoming one.
Regardless, Latson is out. “Mr. Latson made a grave error in judgment in the verbiage he wrote,” a school district spokesperson stated. “In addition to being offensive, the principal’s statement is not supported by either the School District Administration or the School Board.”
Really? As Oswald revealed, administrators counseled Latson about the impropriety of his emails, but he was not formally disciplined. And as revealed in the opening paragraph, Latson still hasn’t been fired, but rather reassigned, despite several petitions, including one that garnered more than 6,000 signatures, asking the School Board to fire him.
Oswald insisted Latson shouldn’t be judged solely by a couple of emails. “It was a hastily, poorly written email that he apologized for,” Oswald declared. “That’s some of the challenge that we face when we email back and forth instead of picking up the phone.”
How about the face-to-face meeting where he ostensibly remained steadfast, Mr. Oswald?
School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri Jr. was equally duplicitous, issuing a statement affirming the school district’s commitment to Holocaust education, while insisting school leaders are reviewing the incident. “As Board Chairman, I assure you that this situation is being investigated at the highest levels of the District Administration,” he wrote.
Since when? Has there been a 14-month investigation dating back to the original exchange, or a hastily convened one, now that the national spotlight has been turned on a county where a number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants reside?
“We have let our public education fall into the hands of people with frightening agendas,” Lifson asserts.
It is far, far worse than that. Decent Americans are standing by while the Left is corrupting our education system to the point where people like William Latson — and his enablers — can insulate themselves from genuine accountability, shielded by school unions and their bureaucratic and legislative collaborators.
Moreover, as the crackpot ideas now openly espoused by Democrat candidates for president reveal, at least one of our two major political parties believe the entire edifice of American exceptionalism can be swept aside — by an electoral majority. That is only possible if the leftist indoctrination that passes for education has reached critical mass.
Once again: The Senate should initiate nationally televised hearings on the state of American schooling. When a “Holocaust-neutral” principal in a large Jewish community can remain on the payroll, we are in uncharted waters — for a constitutional republic.
For a history-eliminating totalitarian gulag? Not so much.