More than 60 South Florida school principals participated in a training to help students understand, process and navigate the world through a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The two-hour session in Boca Raton was the first principal-focused training the league has conducted as part of its nationwide Echoes & Reflections Holocaust education initiative, which has reached more than 60,000 educators across the country since its founding in 2005.
“With a new approach of training principals, we hope they become champions for their schools’ educators, who are embarking upon this crucial subject matter,” said Yael Hershfield, the league’s Florida deputy director.
All public school districts in Florida are required to teach students about the Holocaust since 1994.
Hershfield hopes the new training will give principals the tools they need to continue promoting Holocaust education in their schools.
The training included a process for teaching the Holocaust, a curated lesson plan review on the 1938 Kristallnacht campaign of violence against German Jews, and a variety of free classroom ready multimedia tools. Those include video testimonies of Holocaust survivors compiled and edited by the USC Shoah Foundation; and photos, letters and primary sources curated by Yad Vashem.
The training was for principals of schools within the South Region of the Palm Beach County School District.
Among them was Allison Castellano, the new principal of Spanish River Community High School in Boca Raton. A Spanish River parent and alumna, Castellano replaced the school’s former principal William Latson in July after emails surfaced revealing controversial statements he made about the Holocaust to a Spanish River parent in April 2018.
The emails, which show Latson refusing to say the Holocaust was a “factual, historical event,” landed him and the Palm Beach County School District in trouble with local and state officials, who called for his dismissal and an explanation into why the district took so long to act. Latson was removed from his principal position and was placed under investigation.
On Thursday, a district spokeswoman said it was still an active investigation and declined to give an update on the investigation or say if a date had been set yet for the School Board to review his contract.
The district also did not say if the training session was influenced by the controversy.
Hershfield said the league has been working with the school district and offering training for years but that it’s only responsible for the program’s content, and not the timing.
Hershfield hopes the session will translate into the classroom.
“Today’s students are exposed to increased anti-Semitic and bias-motivated incidents,” Hershfield said. “It is vital to inculcate them with one of the important lessons of the Holocaust — that they should strive to be allies to each other, and never remain silent in the face of contemporary bigotry.”