“13 Reasons Why” Series Sparks Controversy

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The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has sparked controversy at schools across the country, including BASH, since it first aired at the end of March. 

The series, based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, focuses on the mystery surrounding Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 audio cassette tapes for different people connected to why she killed herself.

Some people say the show glorifies and glamorizes suicide.

“We are concerned about our children watching this series without adult supervision because it romanticizes and sensationalizes the idea of suicide,” Lisa Brady, superintendent of schools in Dobbs Ferry New York, wrote in an email to parents.

Other schools are warning parents about the violent and explicit content.

“It has come to our attention that some of our students are watching this show, which contains scenes depicting harsh bullying, sexual assault, and the suicide of the main character,” an email sent out by counselors from Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, an all-girls Catholic school in Villanova, said. “Students will likely find the story upsetting,”

The email encourages parents to talk to their children about the series: “We feel it’s important to inform you about this new series, so we can work collaboratively to support our girls.”

Junior Rachel Durante said the scene where Hannah witnesses her friend being raped was “so disturbing I wasn’t even able to move after watching it.”

While some see the graphic content as disturbing, others worry it might make suicide seem like an easy out.

“For teens who are battling mental health issues, witnessing the end of a life as easily as the show portrayed it could help desensitize kids to this very serious matter,” an article in Rolling Stone said.

BASH Junior Brianna Urban said the scene where Hannah dies is very explicit.

“I think to someone that’s depressed, that’s very triggering and gives them ideas about how to do it,” she said.

High school student Sarah Crysl Akhtar made a similar point in a New York Times article. She said a few years ago, a high school in her area had three teenage suicides within six months. “Don’t think for a moment that the second and third deaths were not related to the first. Suicide is contagious, especially among young people.”

BASD Superintendent Dr. Richard Faidley sent out an email May 5 with talking points from SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Educations) to start a healthy, at home discussion. The points emphasize:

-There are healthy ways to deal with the issues Hannah was going through, and suicide is not a common response to bullying or other challenges in life.

-Suicide is not heroic but tragic.

-Treatment works.

-Although Hannah blames others for her suicide, suicide is never the fault of survivors.

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