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article imageOhio teen commits suicide after school officials' verbal rant

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 8, 2015 in World
Geneva - He was a high school honors student and a promising football player, but after school administrators allegedly claimed he smelled like marijuana and told him he had "ruined his life," Hayden Long committed suicide, says the family of one of his friends.
Hayden, a sophomore football player at Geneva High School, committed suicide after the homecoming dance on Saturday, The New York Daily News reports.
In an open letter, Long's friend Hank Sigel wrote about how school staffers "verbally attacked" Hayden at the school dance. At the end of the letter, Hank's mom Heather Sigel demanded the school "accept responsibility for this tragedy."
Students at a vigil for Hayden Long.
Students at a vigil for Hayden Long.
YouTube screen grab WEWS News
When the incident occurred, Hayden and a few other students were also questioned by police without their parents being there. This happened after the group of kids were accused of smelling like marijuana, Sigel said, according to Fox 43.
At the dance, Hank, Hayden, and four of their friends were pulled aside by Principal Douglas Wetherholt, Assistant Principal Anthony Markijohn and a police officer because they allegedly smelled like pot, the Daily News reports.
"This group of kids was made up of six honor students, who were all involved in sports, and great members of our community," Hank wrote in his letter.
The school administrators and the cop interrogated the teenagers, telling them that they "would fail their classes, had ruined their academic careers, and had made the biggest mistake of their life," Hank said.
The adults came down especially hard on Hayden, he said.
"He was directly told that he had ruined his life by our school administrators," Hank said, according to RawStory. "The students were told that they would fail their classes, had ruined their academic careers and had made the biggest mistake of their lives. A minor event was turned into a life-changing catastrophe by these negligent and vicious men."
He says he wants the administrators to be fired, adding "these are repeat offenders, and have been antagonizing and trying to bring our students down for years."
In his letter, Hank also said he saw things he hopes to never see again.
"We were questioned without our parents, and they forcibly took my keys and searched my car," he wrote. "When I stood up for myself and asked if they had the right to do this, I was told, 'It's cute you think you know your rights.'"
However, Ohio law does not require parents to be present when juveniles are being questioned, said Sheriff William Johnson, RawStory reports. He added that the school principal and an athletic coach were present.
Johnson also said that the teenagers admitted smoking marijuana, and some were found with drug paraphernalia.
Hank's father, Gene Sigel, was also there when all of this happened, and he said he was startled when he heard officials speak to the teen in an "inappropriate manner," he told NewsNet5.
"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," Gene Sigel said. "They smelled like marijuana and that was all that was uncovered."
The teens also faced possible criminal charges, suspension from all sports, and a loss of drivers' licenses, Hank said, per RawStory.
His open letter has gained plenty of steam on the social media, and an online petition through Change.org to remove the school administrators has garnered more than 5,600 supporters.
Eric Kujala, Geneva High School Superintendent, says officials are looking into the accusations and are working with grief counselors at the high school and middle school to help students cope with Hayden's death.
"Our focus is on healing," he said. "We will look at all issues concerned after we allow our school, students and community a chance to recover and begin the healing process."
Hayden Long's family issued a statement through the school district to "eliminate any negative publicity," per Fox 43. Emily Long, who also wrote on behalf of her husband Michael, said that they don't blame the school system "and are offended that some others are speaking for them." They thanked the community and the city schools in the Geneva area for their support.
"We ask that you respect our privacy as we spend quality time with our close family and friends," the statement concluded.
More about Teen suicide, ohio teen commits suicide, school officials verbal attack, Hayden Long, Hank Sigel
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