The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been the center of controversy since it was released in March. Between the graphic depictions of rape and suicide and a complicated look at mental illness, the YA show deals with heavier themes than most fare aimed at teens. While the content should definitely approached with caution, one Canadian school is taking an extreme step and banning all mention of the series on school grounds, claiming that the show attributed to the “glamorization of suicidal behavior and [depicting] negative portrayals of helping professionals.”
St. Vincent Elementary School in Edmonton, Alberta, reached out to parents of sixth graders in an email saying:
“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. 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.”
While the school is definitely motivated by a desire to protect their students (and, honestly, 11 years old is a bit too young to be watching this series anyway), is making it so taboo the right answer? Because of the eternal allure of forbidden fruit, many students could be drawn to the series that had no interest in it before. Perhaps instead of an outright ban, fostering an open line of communication — which is the method that the Community Suicide Prevention Network of Ottawa is taking — would be more effective.
As much as we want to shelter them, modern teenagers deal with these issues all the time in their everyday lives. Instead of keeping such topics relegated to the shadows, creating safe spaces for discussions of the pros and cons of the series and the gravity of the content could be helpful for developing minds. Instead of leaving them to ponder the fate of Hannah Baker without any kind of guidance, it might be best to talk it out.