Hayden Long, a 16-year-old high school student killed himself this week after he was “verbally attacked” by police and school officials because he showed up to a school dance smelling like marijuana. Soon after Long's death, his friend Hank Sigel, who was also verbally abused and violated by police and school officials that night, wrote an open letter blaming the suicide on the encounter that they had that night.
According to Sigel's letter, him, Long, and a few other friends were accused of smoking marijuana before the dance and were told that their whole lives would be ruined as a result.
The students all had a lot to lose, all of them being honor students heavily involved in sports. Sigel says that the police and administrators told them they would be charged criminally, fail out of school, lose their driver's licenses, and be suspended from sports. For students who have been trained to believe that their path in school is their entire life, this type of situation could have disastrous results for a child's state of mind.
In the letter, Sigel said that “I was exposed to some things that I would never want to see again when I was in the room where we were taken. We were questioned without our parents, and they forcibly took my keys and searched my car. 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.’”
“He was directly told that he had ruined his life by our school administrators. 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,” Sigel added.
Sigel's mother even commented on the situation, saying that “The administration needs to accept responsibility for this tragedy. Impressionable teenagers should not be treated like hardened criminals.”
Recommended for You
The full letter can be read below:
An online petition posted on Change.org to remove school administrators has already gathered more than 5,000 signatures. As expected, the school is denying any blame in the suicide, even though it was obviously their fault. Sadly, the family seems to be going along with this, and released the following statement through the school absolving them for their son's death:
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
Throughout their time in school, children are constantly instilled with the idea that they will be failures and that their life will be miserable if they don't live up to the impossible demands of their schools. When children fall short of these demands, or especially if they happen to rebel in any way and seek their own path, they are treated with absolute cruelty by those in authority. Long's friends are totally right in blaming the school for this death, and there are likely countless teenage suicides that can be tied to experiences in government school.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter-culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work, he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.