District Responds to Netflix Series "13 Reasons Why"

District Responds to Netflix Series "13 Reasons Why"
Posted on 05/10/2017
This is the image for the news article titled District Responds to Netflix Series "13 Reasons Why"Dear VASD Families:

This letter is to make you aware of a trending Netflix original series entitled 13 Reasons Why. The series, based on a young adult novel, is raising concerns due to its content and graphic nature. After consulting with staff, I am asking that parents and guardians closely monitor if their children are watching this series or others of the same nature. This particular series revolves around a 17-year-old who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people who she says, in some way, were part of why she killed herself. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role. The series graphically depicts her suicide and addresses a number of difficult topics in graphic detail such bullying, rape, and drunk driving.

Producers of the show hope the series helps those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. The series is rated for mature audiences, however it is being watched by children and teenagers without adult guidance and support. This raises several concerns and cautions including:

1. Children and young adults who have witnessed or experienced trauma may re-experience that trauma and it may trigger significant reactions that they may not be able to manage on their own.
2. Those that feel isolated, or are struggling or vulnerable may increase their risk factors for suicide through exposure to another person’s suicide, or graphic account of another’s suicide.
3. The series was never intended for younger viewers (16 years and younger) and is not developmentally appropriate for them.
4. While many teens and young adults can separate between a TV drama and real life, some will lack the ability to do so.
5. The graphic nature of the depictions in the series is intense for any student and for many students, and they may lack the skill and ability to deal with the intense topics raised in the series.

For these reasons, it is critically important to reinforce the importance of families closely monitoring what their children are watching. One resource for parents regarding this particular series can be found through the organization Suicide Awareness-Voices of Education (SAVE). This site has information for parents and others viewing the series.

While there are many concerns raised by the series, this is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the signs of suicide and share resources that are available to parents. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has information related to risk factors and warning signs for families to be aware of.

If your child exhibits any of the warning signs referenced from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.

Please seek assistance from school-employed or community-based mental health professionals if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers. If you need immediate assistance, please call the Mental Health Center of Dane County at (608) 280-2600 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Both are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Our district also has resources available to you. Below is a list of our district’s student services professionals available to you. Please contact them if you have questions or concerns about your child’s mental health or safety.

I hope this message provides you with information to assist you in handling this situation as a family, but also raise awareness of the sensitive issue of youth suicide and prevention.

Kind regards,

Dean Gorrell – VASD Superintendent

List of Resources:

Staff Resource List

Thirteen Reasons Fact Sheet

Thirteen Reasons Talking Points

Thirteen Reasons: Considerations for Educators
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