For the first time, the Department of Education is raising serious concerns about a television show and taking steps to make sure parents know about it.
The series is called “13 Reasons Why” and educators are worried about the message it sends.
The show, which can be seen on Netflix, has received high interest from teenage audiences, but its graphic nature has school leaders so concerned that the schools superintendent sent a letter Tuesday to parents.
“13 Reasons Why” is a fictional story about a high school student who has been bullied, raped, and commits suicide. The show is for mature audiences, but with the ease of accessing Netflix, the DOE wants parents to be aware of what their children are watching.
“The best thing parents can do be informed about this, and that is the one thing we are trying to get in front of and say hey, you should know about this,” said DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.
The letter, from schools superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, states that the graphic elements in the series “are inconsistent with messages that protect mental and emotional well-being.”
The DOE says the letter was sent to all parents with children in all grade levels.
The series is based on a book published in 2011. We asked school officials if the book is available in school libraries, and are still waiting to hear back.
Licensed psychologist Dr. Allana Coffee says “I know the teens and young adults who I’ve talked to that have seen it, they’re very affected by it.”
Coffee says the popularity of the television series shows how this generation prefers their information and entertainment, and recommends parents watch the series themselves.
“Books are also very visibly graphic if you have a strong enough imagination, but young people are watching shows and they’re binging them. That’s the other thing about this show is that people would come in two days later and they’ve seen the whole thing. It’s like a mass of all this trauma, and that might have a different effect on them too,” she said.
Coffee says there are warning signs parents can watch out for, for example, if children withdraw from activities, make changes in their appearance, let their school grades drop, or experience peer issues, like getting kicked out of a group of friends.
“One of the criticisms of the show is that they didn’t actually depict the warning signs clearly,” Coffee said.
DOE officials say schools also have programs and counselors available for both parents and students.
“Because of our diversity of our communities, we have different approaches to combat bullying and harassment,” Dela Cruz said.