Why Is It So Hard to Fire Educators?

Update: Why Is It So Difficult to Fire a Public School Educator?

Originally published here on October 16, 2020.
Updated on  November 4, 2020

Although educators shouldn’t be fired for harmless infractions, they must meet certain standards. If they occasionally have a bad day or lose their cool once in awhile, that shouldn’t mean the end of their careers. We’re all human, and we’re all dealing with stress right now. 

However, we should at least hold educators to the standards we would expect of anyone who interacts with the public. We should require them to care about people without discrimination. 

Neither their unions nor tenure should render their jobs untouchable under all circumstances. 

To retain the privilege of teaching children, educators should be willing to demonstrate that they know the difference between right and wrong; that they understand the value of science and history; and that they appreciate the difference between reality and fantasy. 

Educators must understand that “alternative facts” is a synonym for “lies.” 

Why Principal William Latson Was Fired

The Palm Beach County School Board made the right decision when they terminated the employment of school principal William Latson for “ethical misconduct and failure to carry out job responsibilities.”  

Here’s what happened. A parent asked Latson how his school would teach students about the Holocaust. His response was: “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a district employee.” 

Actually, Latson was in a position to say the Holocaust actually happened. He was an educated, literate adult who would have had ample opportunity to hear the voices of Holocaust survivors through their own writing or video testimony. He had surely read books or seen documentaries about the Holocaust, unless he was living under a rock.  

He may have believed there were good people on both sides. If so, then he was unequivocally unfit to be the principal of a public school. 

Therefore, 5 of the 7 school board members made what would seem to have been the obvious and fair decision. They kicked Principal Latson to the curb in April 2018

Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Right? You would think so.

But He’s Back

Yet he’s back. On October 7, 2020, the Palm Beach County School Board voted 4 to 3 to reinstate him. 

This, after an administrative law judge decided in August 2020 that Latson had not been proven to have “engaged in misconduct in office, incompetence, or gross insubordination.” Do you think it can’t get any worse? Try this. That judge also awarded Latson back pay.

At a time when children are stressed and scared, and may be struggling with food insecurity, deprivation, and feelings of helplessness, we are supposed to be doing everything possible to offer them our support and compassion. Rehiring a school principal who will not acknowledge the murder of six million human beings and respect that reality is non-negotiable is unacceptable. 

Where Do You Draw the Line?

Yes, judges and school boards must be fair to all of us — educators, parents, and students. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is reasonable. But where do you draw the line? 

I’d draw it here. Fact and fiction are not open to interpretation. They are immutable, and you do not allow an adult who doesn’t know the difference between the two anywhere near impressionable children. It shouldn’t be this difficult to fire a public school educator.

Update: He’s Fired Again

Well, Spanish River High School Ex-Principal William Latson was hit with a heavy-duty load of karma. Yes. He is now Ex-Principal William Latson…again.  As of November 3, ABC News reports that — due to outrage in the community — the Palm Beach County School Board has voted to reverse their decision to reinstate William Latson as principal.

The Palm Beach County School Board, in other words, folded under pressure.

This is the outcome most people would have chosen. But it may be difficult to process the reasons why it took the Palm Beach County School Board so long to do the right thing.

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