Hayden Long committed suicide after officials at his Ohio High School allegedly told the teen he had “ruined his life” by smoking marijuana, and now people in the community are calling for those administrators to face discipline for their actions.
Long was a sophomore at the Geneva High School who got in trouble at this year’s homecoming dance. School administrators reportedly pulled Long aside along with five of his friends, accusing the group of smoking marijuana.
Gene Sigel, the father of student Hank Sigel, said he was present at the dance and heard school officials speaking to the teens in an “inappropriate matter.”
That reportedly included threatening the boys, saying that the infraction could put their futures in jeopardy.
“They were told that they had ruined their life, that they were not going to college, that they were not going to be able to participate in sports, and they were being suspended for 10 days without any real evidence,” Sigel said (via NewsNet 5). “They smelled like marijuana and that was all that was uncovered.”
After Hayden Long’s suicide, hundreds of students and parents gathered at the school’s football field to remember him. The school also canceled an upcoming football game in response to the death of Long, who was the team’s quarterback.
Many others took to social media in response to the suicide, with many calling for those responsible to face consequences. An online petition to remove the school administrators allegedly responsible for threatening Long has received thousands of signatures.
The story of Hayden Long has also gone viral thanks to a letter from his friend, Hank Sigel. A copy of the letter was uploaded to Imgur and went viral on Reddit, where hundreds of people commented on the seemingly inappropriate response to what amounted to a suspicion of marijuana.
In the letter, Siegl said the students were treated inappropriately not only by school administrators but by local police as well.
“This group of kids was made up of six honor students, who were all involved in sports, and great members of the community,” he wrote. “What followed was a two week suspension from school, possible criminal charges, suspension from all sports, and a loss of a driver’s license.”
Hayden was a particular target of the abuse, Sigel wrote.
“Hayden was looked in the eyes and verbally attacked by Mr. Wetherhold, Mr. Markijohn, and 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.”
The school district’s superintendent, Eric Kujala, said he is looking into the accusations but said his focus is on healing and providing students with the support they need.
Kujala added that Long’s family does not want to focus on the negative, and the district posted a message written by his family:
“The Long family has asked that the district post this message to help eliminate any negative publicity. Emily and Michael in no way blame the school system and are offended that some others are speaking for them. 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.
Sincerely, Emily Long”
But many members of the community are still upset over the suicide of Hayden Long. The online petition continues to garner signatures, and the story is now gaining national and international attention.