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School systems across the country are alerting parents, making them aware that their teens may be streaming the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, urging them to watch it with them, and providing information to help them talk about it.
In the upstate New York community of Grand Island, school administrators warned that the series “sensationalizes suicide.” Indiana’s largest school district warned in an email that the series “does not accurately model what we would want or hope individuals do if they are struggling or in crisis.”
In Maryland, principals in the Montgomery County public school system noticed teens talking about the series and wanted to make sure parents had resources to handle tough questions. A warning letter and links to resources eventually went out to all 35,000 middle schoolers. “There’s a lot to take in and digest. If you’re a young, growing mind being informed by what you see, this could have an impact,” said Derek Turner, spokesman for the district. “So we’re giving them tips and tools.”
A letter was sent to parents of Hawaii’s Mid-Pacific Institute students on Monday, warning “that the series is for mature audiences and contains topics of sexual assault, underage drinking, depicts graphic images with extreme profanity, and may send an unintended message that suicide is an acceptable option to resolving depression, anxiety, bullying, or other life challenges.”
According to the Washington Post, a superintendent at a school in Palm Beach, Fla. has seen more threats of suicide as a result of the show.
National Association of School Psychologists. (2017). 13 Reasons Why Netflix series: Considerations for educators [handout]. Bethesda, MD: Author.