Justice

Ohio Teen Committed Suicide After Being Accused of Smoking Pot

October 7th 2015

By:
Kyle Jaeger

A 16-year-old student at Geneva High School in Geneva, Ohio, was found dead at his home on Monday in an apparent suicide that his friend Hank Sigel says could have been avoided.

Hayden Long, a quarterback for the school's football team, allegedly killed himself after being "verbally attacked" by police and school administrators who suspected him and five other students of smoking pot before a homecoming dance, Fox 43 reported.

Sigel, who was one of the six students involved, described what happened during that school event in an open letter that has circulated online. He remembers his friend, expresses grief over the loss, and blames the extreme response of school officials for Long's death. After the six students, who Sigel describes as honor students and athletes, arrived at the dance, they were "accused of smelling like marijuana" and held at the school for questioning.

Open letter

"What followed was a two week suspension from school, possible criminal charges, suspension from all sports, and a loss of driver's license," Sigel wrote. "I was exposed to some things that I would never want to see again when I was in the room where we were taken."

He goes on to say that the students were questioned without their parents, that his car was forcibly searched, and when Sigel asked if they had the right to do that, he alleges that he was told, "It's cute you think you know your rights."

Here's what Sigel wrote about Long's experience in questioning.

"Hayden was looked in the eyes and verbally attacked by Mr. Wetherholt (principal), Mr. Markijohn (assistant principal), and (Geneva police) Officer Gonzalez. He was directly told that he had ruined his life by our school administrators. The students were told they would fail their classes, had ruined their academic careers, and had made the biggest mistake of their life. A minor issue was turned into a life changing catastrophe by these negligent and vicious men."

Sigel's mother also wrote a statement that was attached to the letter, saying that she remembered Long as a "sweet boy from bitty ball" and that the "administration needs to take responsibility for this tragedy."

"Impressionable teenagers should not be treated like harden[ed] criminals," she added.

The Geneva school district has said that it was aware of the letter, which has quickly spread across social media and prompted a Change.org petition calling for administrators involved to be removed. It has already garnered more than 5,000 signatures. On Tuesday, the district issued a statement, saying that this "is a devastating loss for so many."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and 'we' as a district and community support the family in every way," Geneva superintendent Eric Kujala wrote. "We sympathize with them for their loss and understand this is a very difficult time. Our focus right now is on the grieving process of the family students, staff, and community."

Long's family released a statement through the school district, saying that they do not blame school officials for their son's death.

"The family of Hayden Long would like to thank the support of the Geneva community, especially the Geneva Area City Schools for their support during this difficult time. We ask that you respect our privacy as we spend quality time with our close family and friends," the family wrote.

ATTN: reached out to the Geneva Area City Schools district for comment. Superintendent Eric Kujala could not be reached by the time of publication.