US & Canada

Florida headteacher removed from post for refusing to call Holocaust a fact

Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida
Image caption Spanish River Community High School is one of Palm Beach County’s largest public schools

The headteacher of a US school has been sacked after telling a parent he would remain neutral on whether or not the Holocaust happened.

William Latson wrote in an email he could not say "the Holocaust is a factual, historical event".

His comments triggered a backlash, with more than 9,000 people signing an online petition to have him removed.

More than six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany during World War Two, but Holocaust denial persists.

Mr Latson's views were revealed in an email exchange with a parent last year, The Palm Beach Post reported.

The parent, who has not been identified, had wanted to ensure that the Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton, Florida, was making Holocaust education a priority.

In an email published by the paper, Mr Latson said the school had "a variety of activities" on Holocaust education but added that lessons were "not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs".

The parent wrote back asking for clarification, saying: "The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief."

Mr Latson replied: "Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. 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.

"I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Events are still held to commemorate the millions murdered in concentration camps such as Auschwitz

On Monday, the Palm Beach County school authorities said Mr Latson was being reassigned "effective immediately". In a statement it said the headteacher had "made a grave error in judgment "and that his leadership had become "a major distraction for the school community".

"In addition to being offensive, the principal's statement is not supported by either the school district administration or the school board," it said.

In a statement to The Palm Beach Post, Mr Latson apologised for his comments, saying they did not "accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust".

"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 wrote.

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