SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of students walked out of West High School on Tuesday morning to support the school’s principal, who has been placed on paid administrative leave.
The students staged a walkout at 9:40 a.m. Tuesday, gathering the front of the school and chanting “We want Ford!”
The walkout was in support of Principal Ford White, who was placed on leave Monday. Salt Lake City School District officials confirmed White was placed on leave but have not given a reason for his suspension.
On Tuesday, district spokesperson Yándary Chatwin said a human resources investigation was taking place. She did not know how long White would be suspended, saying that depends on the process for the investigation.
“This walkout is showing support for our Principal, Ford White,” a Tuesday post from a West High School students account called @westhighspam says. “We won’t allow this to happen for him or his career and the community he loved like his own.”
An Instagram post from the @westhighspam account and an email from a West teacher describe a Nov. 14 incident on school grounds involving White and three students who may have been intoxicated.
The teacher’s letter says White ended up getting in the car of one of the students and driving the students home. Assistant Principal Ron Litteral followed the group in his own car, according to the letter.
The teacher’s letter said district policies stipulate that police should be called during such a situation but were not contacted.
“Ford came across students who were drunk near the school,” @westhighspam’s post says. “As far as we know, he helped them get home safely instead of doing what the district thinks was right (call the cops).”
It is not clear if the Nov. 14 incident is in any way connected to White being placed on leave. Litteral has been named as acting principal during White’s leave, according to Chatwin.
Tuesday, KSL TV spoke with the students who allegedly were involved in the Nov. 14 incident. KSL is not using the students' names because they are minors.
The students said they regret their actions that day and felt that they were the ones who should be suspended instead of White. One student said they believed the principal knew the proper rules but chose to do what he believed was morally right that day.
One of the students said, through tears, that they felt horrible because White supported them personally and saw their potential. White had a personal relationship with every student at West High School, another student added.
West High School senior Felix Ortiz said White did a lot to help not only students at the school, but also the community surrounding the school.
"This year our school is more involved with each other, and there's a connection in our school since Ford has been here that's never been here before," he said.
Ortiz added that nobody knows exactly what happened. But he said although White did allegedly break from official district rules, the principal chose to do the right thing. That one instance shouldn't be grounds to dismiss White from the school, he said.
"I hope that the message that gets across to the district here is that we want Ford White as our principal here at West High School and we won't stop till we get that," Ortiz said.
White sent a message to the @westhighspam account saying he was working hard to get back to the school, according to a Tuesday post from the account.
Chatwin said students who participated in the walkout will be treated as if they were absent. There are some consequences any time students are absent, so students will have to deal with those, she said. She did not elaborate on consequences students might face.
Contributing: Felicia Martinez and Derek Petersen, KSL TV; John Wojcik, KSL NewsRadio