School district shares message on West High website after principal put on leave, students stage walkout in protest

West High principal Ford White. Photo: WHS website. West High School. File photo: Wikimedia Commons/Adrian Comollo

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 23, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Six days after the Salt Lake City School District put West High principal Ford White on administrative leave, and two days after hundreds of WHS students staged a walkout in support of White, the district issued a statement to students.

As most of you know, Principal Ford White was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday, November 15th following an incident involving West High students,” says the statement, issued Thursday.

While this investigation is still ongoing and I cannot openly discuss the particulars, I feel it is important to make sure you know that our primary concern in any student-related incident will always be student safety and well-being. This is the lens through which the district’s investigation is being conducted.

A little background: An Instagram post by westhighspan, an account that says it is “strictly for studentz,” details what happened, something the district has not discussed.

“Ford came across students who were drunk near the school,” the 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). Now, Ford is at fault of his actions leading to his situation of leaving,” the post on the student site says.”

A letter obtained by the Deseret News , reportedly written by a teacher, shared more about what allegedly happened. According to the account, a teacher saw three students who were intoxicated on the south lawn during third period.

A male student was trying to lift a female student onto a bench as another male student was nearby, on the ground.

The teacher wrote that she spoke to White about the students, and he said they seemed fine. The teacher approached the bench and smelled alcohol.

White and an assistant principal Ron Litteral then worked to get the students standing, and suggested the female student get her car to drive the males home, the teacher’s account says.

After the teacher noted the girl had been drinking and should not drive, White reportedly elected to drive the students home in the girl’s car. White was followed in a car driven by Litteral, who gave him a ride back to West High.

Now back to the district statement, issued Superintendent Lexi Cunningham and posted on the West High website:

I know you’ve heard versions in the media this week of what may have happened; remember this is not complete information. This was never about seeking disciplinary or legal action against students. We were faced with investigating a situation where students were put at risk and their well-being was not looked after properly. Please rest assured that we are looking into every detail that has been brought to our attention, including the actions of all involved.

The post thanks students for their continued patience, then continues:

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We may never be able to publicly share all the details of this investigation or of the incident in question, but moving forward, I will personally provide you with any important updates, the superintendent’s statement says.

The district has not shared additional information with Gephardt Daily other media outlets.Gephardt Daily will update the story as is develops.

• • •

Read the superintendent’s full letter below:

Letter from the Superintendent

Dear West High School community,

I wanted to take a moment to address some of the concerns I’ve heard among the West High community this week.

As most of you know, Principal Ford White was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday, November 15th following an incident involving West High students. While this investigation is still ongoing and I cannot openly discuss the particulars, I feel it is important to make sure you know that our primary concern in any student-related incident will always be student safety and well-being. This is the lens through which the district’s investigation is being conducted.

I know you’ve heard versions in the media this week of what may have happened; remember this is not complete information. This was never about seeking disciplinary or legal action against students. We were faced with investigating a situation where students were put at risk and their well-being was not looked after properly. Please rest assured that we are looking into every detail that has been brought to our attention, including the actions of all involved.

Thank you for your continued patience while we wait for our investigation to conclude. I know it may be frustrating that we cannot share with you the details of this investigation or the incident that triggered it. But I also know you share my commitment to our students’ welfare. I want to thank our West High School teachers and staff, who have helped our students remain focused on learning during this trying week.

We may never be able to publicly share all the details of this investigation or of the incident in question, but moving forward, I will personally provide you with any important updates. I have always known the West High School community to be an engaging and involved group, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as your superintendent.

Thank you again for your support and dedication to West High School.

Sincerely,

Dr. Lexi Cunningham
Superintendent
Salt Lake City School District

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