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School district warns parents about Netflix series

By Tim Harlow

Minneapolis Star Tribune

A popular new Netflix series in which a 17-year-old girl takes her own life and leaves behind 13 tapes on which she explains why is drawing concerns from Minnesota’s largest school district where teen suicide has been a tender topic in the past.

On Tuesday, the Anoka-Hennepin School District sent an e-mail to parents and staff about the program “13 Reasons Why” that critics say glorifies suicide and other harmful behavior.

“While the show is compelling and dramatic, the concern many of us that work with children share is that it does not accurately model what we would want or hope individuals do if they are struggling or in crisis,” the e-mail said.

The series, based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher, also deals with topics such as sexual assault, drug and alcohol use, and bullying. Some mental health experts saying the series went too far in depicting the traumatic and sometimes deadly behavior and does not suggest viable alternatives.

“The district is trying to be proactive,” said spokesman Jim Skelly, who noted that the district has seen an uptick in self injurious behavior — even at the elementary school level — that might be connected to the show. “This is a fine line because the district does not want to single out or promote the program that some students might be watching. We want to encourage parents to have discussions with students that this might be happening.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents 15 to 19, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though the show is aimed at older teens and young adults, Skelly said the district decided to send it to parents of students of all ages in the interest of student safety. The gist of the letter is meant to tell parents that it is OK to bring up issues with their kids and that their kids can reach out for help.