Principal of West High School placed on paid leave


Joffrey Maalona

Students protest their principal’s leave outside of West High on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 9:40 am.

Camorah Sillito, Reporter

As of Monday, November 18, the principal of West High School, Ford White, has been placed on paid leave.

According to Desert News, “A letter sent to parents and others in the school community by Chris Gesteland, who supervises all schools that are part of West High’s feeder pattern, didn’t offer an explanation for the suspension. Contacted at his home Monday night, White declined to comment on the situation.”

The official statement regarding the incident vaguely addresses the rumors and what actions are currently being taken. Though the statement doesn’t address the situation openly, students and teachers have unveiled the incident through Instagram posts and emails. People state that on November 14th, White discovered three intoxicated students on the south lawn of the campus during their third period. One of the students was so intoxicated, they were passed out on the ground.  As White saw the scene, he asked the students if they were all right, to which they responded that they were fine. An unnamed teacher saw the situation and approached White. They then proceeded to ask White what had happened. White told the teacher that he had previously talked to them and that they had told him they were fine.

The teacher stated that as they approached the students, they smelled a strong odor of alcohol. One of the students then admitted that they had been drinking. Seeing the state of the students, the teacher and White then assisted them. In the process, White called for the help of the assistant principal, Ron Litteral. 

Per the request of White, one of the students went and got her car. As the student pulled up, the teacher expressed their concern for the student driving because she had been drinking. White then got into the student’s car and drove all of the students home, with Ron Litteral following behind in his personal car. 

Within the school district, an incident like this should unquestionably be reported to the police, though it never was. There has been no official reason as to why White has been placed on leave, though a majority speculate it was due to him not reporting the incident to any police or administration. 

When the staff and students of West High School heard the news of White’s departure, there was a mix of emotions. Some felt that the school made the right choice, but most were enraged. To the students, White is looked at as a supportive, considerate, and cooperative person, not only within the school but in the community as well. Numerous students say that White would help them in any way possible and to the best of his abilities.   

A student-run Instagram account by the name @westhighspam announced that on Tuesday, November 19, at 9:40 A.M, the students would walk out in protest of the actions taken against Ford. 

The Instagram page stated, “We are walking out for the sake of our principal, Ford White. 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. WE DON’T WANT ANOTHER PRINCIPAL.” 

On the morning of the walkout, the students definitely showed up. Students met in the front of the school, donning posters and shouting chants. 

One of the organizers of the walk out, a junior at West High, Nano Feletoa, commented on what happened at the walk out. 

“It went successful at the start. I felt like the district realized who they’re taking away from us when we shouted “Free Ford” and those other chants. But near the end, trash, candy, and glass was thrown, middle fingers were held up, and a wig went flying even though it was labeled as a peaceful protest. It’s definitely history for West High.”

Feletoa also pointed out his views of the situation with, “I feel like Ford, being the nice person he is, did the right and wrong thing in this situation. His intentions were to keep his students out of harm’s way, due to the fact that they were alcohol poisoned. Maybe informing the family that he would be taking them home would’ve helped the situation. But I believe there’s no rules when it comes to moral standards, and I feel like I speak with Ford on that.” 

A majority of the students feel as though they may have to take the issue to the district office, seeing that despite their efforts, White is still on leave. The Salt Lake Tribune said, “Many of the protesters said that White specifically wanted to work with them when issues arose and saw discipline as a last resort. He often talked to students about scholarships, and several noted with a laugh that his catchphrase is: “Show up, do the work and get paid, baby.”

Anna Drozdek, a junior at West High noted, “I think that my principal tried to do something to help out students but didn’t do something that the district believed was right. I don’t think the situation is handled in the best way. I believe that our principal is a good guy who’s helped changed our school for the better, he genuinely cares for the students and wants the best for them.”

Word of the leave of the principal has spread fast and it has gained attention across the valley. Sariah Johnson, a junior here at Taylorsville High, when asked if White was in the wrong, stated, “No. He protected his students from harming themselves and others. He took them home to protect them and others, so he wasn’t in the wrong, he was in the right.” 

The students at West High have started the hashtag #FreeFord and they are currently planning on doing another walk-out in protest. Whether Ford White will continue to be the principal of West High or not, has yet to be decided. In the meantime, students plan on fighting for themselves and for him.