Schools Are Warning Parents About "13 Reasons Why"

Administrators are worried the show glamourizes suicide.

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According to CBC News, this message was sent by the principal of St. Vincent Elementary School in Edmonton to parents. It says that discussing the show "is not permitted at school due to the disturbing subject matter."

Dear Grade Six parents,

It is has come to Miss Ciezki's and my attention that some students are watching a Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why. The discussion that is unfolding at school is troubling. This series is rated Mature and the theme is the suicide of a high school student. This show includes graphic violence (rape) and gore, profanity, alcohol/drugs/smoking, and frightening/intense scenes.

Of course what your child watches on television is completely your choice, however I wanted to let you know that many students are watching and discussing this at school.

The purpose of this email is to provide you with this information. Please let your child know that discussion of 13 Reasons Why is not permitted at school due to the disturbing subject matter.

Should you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you have questions about this show, please feel free to contact Miss Ciezki, who has watched the series.

Thank you,

Mme Ghali

13 Reasons Why follows the story of a teen girl who, before dying by suicide, created a series of audiotapes explaining why she did it. The show includes sexual assault and an episode in which a school guidance counsellor fails to help the protagonist.

A school board spokesperson told CBC the series glamourizes suicide and portrays it as a method of revenge.

The Edmonton school is far from the only one with concerns. There are reports of several other schools warning teachers and parents to be careful.

Netflix

The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board in Ontario posted a message on its website saying the show "has graphic content related to suicide, glamorization of suicidal behaviour and negative portrayals of helping professionals, which may prevent youth from seeking help."

"We have recommended that our teachers not use this as a teaching aid," the note said.

"In any class, some students could watch the series and potentially benefit. Others may have a negative reaction, whether they then blame the victim or others during the class discussions or identify with the victim and the attention their death received."

The organization School Mental Health Assist, which works with the Ontario government, sent a memo to school boards saying 13 Reasons Why shouldn't be used as a "teaching tool."

Netflix

Director Kathy Short told BuzzFeed Canada they're not trying to prevent conversations about mental health and suicide, but want to make sure those conversations are informed and constructive. The memo included recommendation for what to do if a teacher is approached by a student wanting to talk about the show.

"It is good that 13 Reasons Why is leading people to the conversation, but 13 Reasons Why shouldn't BE the conversation," said Short. "There are better, research-informed materials for supporting learning in this area for young people."

CTV News reported that two school boards in Quebec have sent out similar memos.

The Community Suicide Prevention Network of Ottawa has spoken out about the show, addressing the concerns that have been raised. Rather than avoiding it, the group recommends using 13 Reasons Why as an opportunity to talk.

In conversation points shared on its website, the organization suggested asking teens what they think of the show and encouraging open and honest discussion about suicide.

"Television can be an excellent springboard for discussion — which is what this series is doing, however much of the material is graphic and potentially triggering for vulnerable people, so please be cautious," the group said.

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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