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The Lion's Tale

“13 Reasons Why” prompts discussion, reflection

The+title+screen+for+the+Netflix+drama+%2213+Reasons+Why%22+shows+symbols+of+the+show+and+of+suicide.
The title screen for the Netflix drama

The title screen for the Netflix drama "13 Reasons Why" shows symbols of the show and of suicide.

Photo by Ari Feuer

Photo by Ari Feuer

The title screen for the Netflix drama "13 Reasons Why" shows symbols of the show and of suicide.

Rina Torchinsky and Kate Sosland

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“13 Reasons Why,” a new series on Netflix, is provoking dialogue among students, parents and the administration.

This 13 episode series is about a teenage girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. Before she does, however, she leaves behind tapes intended for the 13 people who she blames for ending her life.

On April 26, the administration sent out an email to parents, informing them that their children have access to this show and encouraging them to engage in a dialogue with their children. The email included links to resources to help parents understand how to respond to the potential issues raised by “13 Reasons Why.”

Along with the email sent out to parents, JDS faculty members received an email from the administration reminding them of their responsibility to report any drastic changes in mood, as well as any signs that the student may be suicidal. Additionally, a session will be held at lunch on May 4 to give students an opportunity to discuss the show’s message.

According to Dean of Students Roslyn Landy, the email to parents came after a discussion with administrators from other local independent schools in the area. Once Landy heard how other schools responded to the show, she deemed it necessary to inform the parents.

“It is important that we share information on important topics with parents so that we can partner with them and work together to ensure the safety and well-being of our children,” Landy said.

Landy believes that the values that can be gained from watching the show come from conversation with others afterward. She thinks it’s important to recognize the flaws and exaggerations while watching the series.

High school guidance counselor Rachel Soifer also noted the importance of talking about the show. She believes that it is beneficial to discuss the series’ content “with someone who is close and connected and healthy.”

Soifer noted that various students will absorb the show differently. While some students might watch the show purely for entertainment or as a medium for “constructive dialogue,” a student in “an unhealthy place” would be presented with “possibilities that could trigger risk.”

Soifer, along with high school guidance counselor Melissa Gartner, had students come to them to process the show, but the students did not voice specific concerns about it.

“We’ve certainly had students in to discuss the show but I haven’t had any students come in with specific or explicit concerns about it,” Gartner said. “They just wanted to talk about it.”

For sophomore Naomi Alter, the series evoked a meaningful message in its emphasis on serious topics. She has already watched the popular show twice and her mother has begun to watch it.

Alter thinks suicide is a relevant topic in the world today. In her eyes, “13 Reasons Why” offers an example of a preventable situation that should never happen.

Like Alter, Landy wants to ensure that students are aware that there are always outlets to help and support them.

“We are aware that our students are watching this show and because of the sensitive topic, we want to make sure that we help them in any way that we can to watch it thoughtfully, talk about it and learn about ways to deal with difficult situations in a healthy way,” Landy said.

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