A quarterback for Ohio’s Geneva High School football team was found dead in his home on Monday. The 16-year-old, Hayden Long, killed himself from what a friend describes as marijuana shaming.
The student was verbally attacked by police and school administrator who suspected him and 5 other students for smoking marijuana before homecoming dance.
As a school and community remember a student, an open letter written by one of the 6 honor students involved has gone viral online (below). Hank Sigel explains the details he believes led to Hayden’s death. He starts the letter off by honoring and respecting his friend and referring to his dark mental state. Hank then goes on to recount what occurred.
The students were accused of smelling of marijuana at a school dance and were then questioned without their parent’s presence by school administrators. What followed next was a two weeks suspension, threats of possible criminal charges, suspension from all school sports, and a loss of driver’s license. Sigel’s keys were taken, and his car was searched.
Hank Sigel wrote in his letter:
“I was exposed to some things that I would never want to see again when I was in the room where we were taken.”
Hank says that he tried to stick up for himself, and was told “It’s cute you think you know your rights.”
He goes on to say that Hayden was verbally attacked by two principals, Mr. Wetherholt, Mr. Markijohn and Police Officer Gonzales. The teachers were most certainly trying to scare the students. Hayden was told he would fail all of his classes, and that he’d ruined his career and his life. He was told they’d made the biggest mistake of their lives. Sigel states that it was a:
“Minor issue turned into a life changing catastrophe by these negligent and vicious men.”
This statement is truly eye-opening, and the letter in its entirety makes you truly question what these students have had to endure.
Hank’s mother finishes off the letter apologizing to the Long family if the letter hurts them. She believes that the administrators need to accept responsibility for this tragedy. She writes;
“impressionable teenagers should not be treated as harden criminals.”
The school district is aware of the letter and have also issued a statement of their own. They have noted that Hayden’s family does not blame the school, and the Long family has also released a statement that they do not blame the school.
Ohio Marijuana Laws
Under the current Ohio State law, for someone over the age of 21, marijuana is considered a minor misdemeanor. There is a charge of $150. In other words, this would not lead to a criminal record like these teens were told. They were not even found in possession, they were only accused of smelling like marijuana. This was not life-ending, not career ending.
With the upcoming election you would think that these adults may have a more developed way to approach the situation. The Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative, is in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana to those 21 years of age and older. Voters will be voting on the issue on November, 3rd.
In reflection to Ohio’s current laws, Hank’s mother was correct, these children were treated like adults charged in possession of marijuana. Like harden criminals.
This teenage boy was shamed purely on suspicion. This is unacceptable, especially without proof or caught with possession. Officials need to treat students with a level of respect. From Hank’s letter, it’s pretty suggestive that this is an ongoing bullying attitude towards the students.
As the community remembers Hayden, the story has gained attention country and worldwide. A petition on change.org has started up to increase awareness of the situation, and bring it to officials’ attention. The plan is to present the signatures to the Superintendent of Geneva Area City Schools when they reach their goal of 7,500.
“If these principals had used a more mature and professional approach towards disciplining the student, he would most likely still be alive.”
The petition has stated that they are not affiliated with the students’ family. In the petition description, it states that had the school used a more professional manner to deal with this, Hayden’s death could have been avoided.
Have you or anyone you know ever been marijuana shamed? If so, how did you deal with it? Let us know on social media