SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Approximately 200 students walked out of West High School on Tuesday, most of them upset that Principal Ford White was placed on leave.
They chanted "we want Ford" outside the school's entrance as school district officials and school leaders looked on.
Students said White was placed on leave after a group of students showed up to school intoxicated and he gave them a ride home.
Yandary Chatwin, a spokesperson for Salt Lake City School District, said she could only confirm that White was placed on paid leave on Friday, Nov. 15 and that a district investigation is underway.
She would not comment on the reason Ford was placed on leave, saying it was human resources policy not to discuss personnel matters.
By student accounts, White is well-liked. Although most students at the walkout were upset that he was placed on leave, some felt the district was right.
"They could have gotten in a car, incapable of driving. He took them home and they got there safe," said Jayden Bush, who feels the principal did the right thing.
Natalie Cortez said she doesn't like the fact that White was put on leave. "He is a great person," she said.
Cortez praised White, saying he is the "greatest principal ever" and that he helped her with math, language arts and attending class.
Another student, Cass Mounga, said morally White did the right thing in driving the kids home so they would be safe. Ethically, she thinks he was wrong to go against district policy.
She strongly disagrees with the district's decision to put White on leave because it incited the walkout.
Mounga said the district has old policies that don't address the needs and issues faced by students today.
She said the school has long-time issues with vaping, smoking and drinking. No policy seems to make those problems better.
"What makes you think the procedures work? If you constantly see the results being the same, maybe you should switch up the procedure," she said.
Jatavia Smith says White did something he wasn't supposed to do as an adult or as an administrator.
"He honestly should have done what protocol said... to call the cops or parents," Smith said. "I just don’t see the need for everyone to be upset about it.”
"He’s really good as a person... he’s respectful... and a great principal, but he stepped over the line with that one," Smith said.
An Instagram account titled "WestHighSpam" posted about the walkout Monday, calling on a student to leave class in support of White.
"We are walking out for the sake of our principal, Ford White," the post stated. "He has done so many things for our school and the community. He has given our school so many opportunities from trips to scholarships. Our support is needed for the situation he is in [right now]."
A second post on the Instagram page detailed an account of what allegedly happened.
"Ford came across students who were drunk near the school. As far as we know, he helped them get home safely, instead of doing what the district thinks was right (call the cops). Now, Ford is at fault of his actions leading to his situation of leaving. The standing or 'replacement' principal is Ron Litteral, the one who tried to shut down homecoming early. Is that who y'all really want?"