Former school principal in Florida apologizes for Holocaust remarks, asks to keep job

Andrew Marra, Palm Beach Post
·3 min read
Former Spanish River High School Principal William Latson apologized for his 2018 comments about the Holocaust in a video posted Tuesday on YouTube.
Former Spanish River High School Principal William Latson apologized for his 2018 comments about the Holocaust in a video posted Tuesday on YouTube.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — A former principal whose controversial Holocaust comments prompted national outrage apologized and asked to keep his job in a Florida public school system as a new vote on his fate nears.

Former high school principal William Latson said in an online video Tuesday that he is “not a Holocaust denier” and is “sorry that my comments caused people to think that.”

He appealed to school board members to let him keep his job in Florida's Palm Beach County Public Schools, a position board members voted 4-3 to reinstate him to this month but are now weighing whether to rescind.

“When I wrote to a parent in 2018 that as an employee of Palm Beach County schools I could not state that the Holocaust was a historical fact, I was wrong,” he said.

“I apologize to the Palm Beach County community, the school board, the school administration, the parents, students, teachers of Palm Beach County, the Jewish community and everyone offended or hurt by my mistake.”

The apology is Latson's first personal expression of remorse since his Holocaust comments were revealed in July 2019. It comes as school board members, struggling to grapple with the sustained outrage surrounding his case, prepare for a new vote Monday.

To keep his job, Latson will have to hope that none of the four board members who voted to reinstate him reconsider under the onslaught of public pressure.

None of the four responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

The veteran principal was fired a year ago after stoking national anger by telling a parent he “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 appealed his termination, and an administrative law judge ruled in August that the board had gone too far in firing him.

Reluctantly, board members voted 4-3 to reinstate him. They were met with an onslaught of angry phone calls and emails from across the country.

Days later, School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri asked board members to reconsider. To do so, one of the four board members who voted to reinstate him would have to change their vote.

A new vote was originally set for last week, but a flood of more than 1,300 voicemail comments — all of which board members are required to listen to — forced the school board to postpone the vote until Monday.

In the video, Latson acknowledged the timing of his apology would lead some to question its sincerity.

“Some people may say this apology comes too late," he said, "but I believe it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Since his comments were revealed in July 2019, Latson has maintained he did nothing wrong. Instead, he falsely blamed the controversy on comments by the parent, leading to his termination.

After the 4-3 vote to reinstate him Oct. 7, his attorney doubled down on that position, falsely claiming that the parent had asked Latson to "confront" Holocaust deniers and that he was right not to take a position on the Holocaust's factualness.

"Confronting parents about their beliefs was outside the scope of his duties," his attorney Thomas Elfers wrote.

In his video apology, Latson said that Elfer's statement was issued "without my knowledge."

Follow Andrew Marra on Twitter: @AMarranara.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Former principal apologizes for Holocaust remarks, asks to keep job