Dr. Nicholas Bernice, Superintendent
May 5, 2017
Dear Ringwood School Community,
Recently, both the media and schools are reacting to the Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why.” This series is based on a work of fiction that explores a high school girl’s reasons for her taking her own life. Wondering how this show could affect our students, I decided to watch the series.
At its core, the series is terribly problematic for young viewers and those who may have experienced some of the circumstances depicted. These circumstances include underage drinking - by every single main character, driving under the influence, intentional and calculated harassment and bullying, marijuana dealing and use, and two incidents of rape – which is shown over and over as the perspectives of different characters are explored. The viewer is subject to watching all of these things, as narrated by the deceased, on audio tapes she leaves behind. This all culminates in the viewer being subject to watching the narrator kill herself and later being discovered by her loving parents.
The series brutally illustrates the unfortunate treatment some students experience from their peers - especially young girls, which is unnecessary, unfortunate, and preventable. However, I cannot stress enough that “13 Reasons Why” is not a teaching tool and is in no way therapeutic.
During the series, Netflix offers ZERO effective coping strategies to viewers who may be feeling similarly or experiencing similar circumstances. This show is not a way for children to learn about how to stop or prevent bullying, sexual assault, alcohol abuse, drug use, depression, and suicide.
If your children are watching “13 Reasons Why”, then please discuss these difficult topics with them. The one thing the series does get right is when one character concludes: “ It has to get better, the way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.” Let us all start by looking out for the children and openly discussing the challenges the community faces when raising them responsibly.
I am attaching an information sheet from the National Association of School Psychologists to aid both educators and families in conversations with children. From this document: Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.
Nicholas Bernice, Ed.D.