Since its release on Netflix, there has been a growing cacophony of concerned Westchester County educators who have cautioned parents about the perils of the show, which is based on the young adult novel of the same name by author Jay Asher.
This week, Middle School Principal Scott Wynne and High School Principal Jeffrey Capuano wrote to parents that the show contains subject matter that includes graphic depictions of rape, substance abuse, cyber bullying, voyeurism and suicide, which may not be suitable for students. They said that while many middle and high school students may have seen some or all of the episodes, it is produced by Selena Gomez, and it may be reaching too wide an audience of younger students.
“The producers claim that this series offers an opportunity for families to discuss the trauma suicide can cause and the reality of its permanent nature,” they wrote.
“In watching the series, it became apparent that young adolescents and teens could perceive the message depicted as suicide being a viable and or romanticized option. The content of the series is extremely graphic with troubling scenes throughout each episode.”
The principals noted that “the series contains very mature subject matter, including graphic depiction of fighting, suicide and rape, as well as multiple references to drug and alcohol abuse, drunk driving and intense bullying.”
According to Wynne and Capuano, the show has several shortcomings, including “the idea of a person committing suicide living on beyond death; adults - both parents and school personnel - being depicted as unavailbale, unresponsive or uncaring and a lack of expression of how students can handle harmful situations in terms of getting help or utilizing healthy coping skills.”
In an effort to assist parents, the district has offered several options that contain talking points for adolescents, “13 Reasons Why,” and the consequences of suicide:
- 13 Reasons Why Talking Points from the JED Foundation
- Commonsense Media Reviews of 13 Reasons Why
- Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide.
“While many of our youth are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, engaging in thoughtful conversations with them about the show is vital. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and let them know that help is available should they need it.”
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