The Geneva High School community is mourning the death of a sophomore student this week.
Hayden Long, 16, died at his home Monday. The county coroner’s office said it is not releasing information about the cause of death at this time.
He was one of six juvenile students questioned Saturday night at the high school’s homecoming dance on suspicion of smoking marijuana, according to a petition circulating on social media.
Superintendent Eric Kujala called Long’s death “a shock” and said the district had additional counselors on hand Tuesday and today and would reassess the need after that.
“Our focus is on the grieving family. It’s a really difficult time for our community,” he said. “Our priority is the emotional well-being of our students and staff.”
The superintendent said there are no plans at this time for any type of memorial service. He said the school wants to give Long’s family a chance to grieve without distractions.
The social media petition and comments in the community make that desire difficult. They are critical of the way school officials handled the students suspected of smoking marijuana.
Sheriff William Johnson said the students were deemed in violation of school rules and his deputies were called to the dance at SPIRE Institute.
He said the students were questioned by an off-duty Geneva Police officer who was working security, the high school principal and the head football coach.
The sheriff said the students admitted to using marijuana, and some had paraphernalia on them.
One of the students, Hank Sigel, circulated a letter throughout Geneva and on social media saying school officials crossed a line in handling the situation. His mother, Heather, also signed the 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,” Siegel said in the letter. “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.’”
Johnson said Ohio law does not require parents be present when questioning juveniles, and he said other adults, such as the principal and coach, were there during the session.
Sigel said the students faced a two-week suspension from school, possible criminal charges, suspension from all sports and a loss of drivers’ licenses, saying a minor issue became “a life changing catastrophe.”
The change.org petition, which already has collected almost 4,000 signatures, alleges school officials “verbally assaulted” Long by telling him he would be kicked off the football team, flunk all his classes and ruin his academic career.
Kujala said he was aware of the petition and letter, but said he could not comment on them because of student privacy policies. He said he could also not discuss any possible disciplinary action.
Johnson said, as far as the questioning was concerned, he believed everyone acted properly.
“Whatever infractions the school set forth, we don’t have any control over that,” Johnson said.
He said any evidence will be sent to the juvenile court for consideration regarding potential criminal charges against the arrested students.
Geneva High School has canceled its football game Friday at Perry.