GENEVA, OH — A high school student took his own life after being ‘verbally assaulted’ by his school administrators and a police officer for a ‘minor issue’ of smelling like marijuana, according to an open letter which is gathering pace online.
Hank Sigel, student at Geneva High School in Illinois, US, has decided to take action and is calling for his school’s administrators and the officer in question to step down after a ‘life changing catastrophe’ resulted in his friend, Hayden Long, taking his own life, he said.
In the letter, Hank describes how he and Hayden – along with four other honour students – were accused of smelling like the drug at the school’s homecoming celebrations.
After a two-week suspension, elimination from all sports, and a loss of his driver’s licence, the student also claims how he was exposed to things he would ‘never want to see again’, including being questioned without his parents, having his keys forcibly taken from him and having his car searched.
When he tried to stand up for himself at the police station, Hank claims he was told: “It’s cute you think you know your rights.”
Read the student’s open letter:
Describing how Hayden was ‘verbally attacked’ by the men, Hank adds: “He was directly told that he had ruined his life by his school administrators. The students were told they would fail their classes, had ruined their academic careers, and make the biggest mistake of their life.” An issue, he says, was minor.
Having already gathered almost 500,000 views in less than 24 hours on image sharing site, Imgur, the student’s letter also includes a statement of support from his mother, Heather, who says the administration ‘needs to accept responsibility for this tragedy’. She adds: “Impressionable teenagers should not be treated like hardened criminals.”
As well as the letter, an online petition on Change.org has been attracting attention also calling for the school’s staff and police officer to resign from their posts.
Nearing 5,000 signatures, it states: “…tell all your friends and family because this CAN happen to another student if the same morons who have the position for principal belittle a student to the point that they believe suicide is the only way.”
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.
The district’s Superintendent Eric M. Kuaja also added in a separate address to the community: “The safety and emotional well-being of our students and staff is our first priority.
“We realize how difficult this may be for some students and as parents, you know your child best and can determine if attending school is in their best interest.”
Counsellors have since been made available at the high school for students and staff to use, and the district also said it would not be sharing any additional information on the situation in respect for the family.
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