Listserve message for 4-27-17-13 Reasons Why
Published on Apr 27, 2017 15:36

Dear Millis Families: 

We have become aware that many adolescent students are watching and discussing a new Netflix series entitled 13 Reasons Why, the content of which is challenging and difficult.  In an informal poll this week, almost 100% of one Millis Middle School grade level (Gr. 7) of students had seen this series and 50% said that their parents were not aware they were watching it. None had watched it with their parents, according to the students.

The series is based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher originally published in 2011. The story focuses on a high school student who dies by suicide, leaving behind 13 tapes detailing why she took her own life. The Netflix series contains graphic scenes of suicide and sexual assault/rape. It also addresses issues of cyber-bullying, alcoholism, and depression and depicts serious trauma without showing any effective ways for teens to reach out or seek help. Young people could take away the romanticized message that suicide is a viable and romanticized option. When the high school student does reach out to a guidance counselor the guidance counselor does not react well and it is very important for our students to know that Millis staff, teachers and school adjustment counselors, have expertise in this area and will be able to help the student get help. 

These issues are extraordinarily challenging and may be difficult for some students to process in a healthy and appropriate way. We want to ensure that families are not only aware of the show, but are equipped with resources to help them address these issues with their children. Our students are routinely screened for signs and symptoms of mental illness and suicidal ideation.  Students receive education regarding mental illness and suicide prevention through their health education curriculum.  Our faculty and counseling staff have also been made aware of the concerns generated by this series and they are prepared to support our students.   In High School Health and Wellness classes at Millis High School the book, which is quite different from and less disturbing than the Netflix series, has been used for several years and is discussed in appropriate ways. It is essential that discussion accompany both the book and the series.

As a family, we encourage you to: 

  • Check with your child to find out if they have watched the show or what they might know      

        about it. 


  • If they want to see the show, watch it with them or preview it for them. You are the best  

       person to determine if your child is prepared to handle the content. 


  • If they have already watched it, take the opportunity to open a dialogue about the important yet        

   difficult issues portrayed in the story using the resources below. 


The following resources provide important guidance on the issues addressed in the show, as well as talking points for having a meaningful conversation with your child: 


  • National Association of School Psychologists (Background) crisis/preventing-youth-suicide/13-reasons-why-netflix-series-considerations-for-educators 
  • Jed Foundation 
  • Jed Foundation/Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (Talking Points)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Common Sense Media -
  • This link provides a comparison of the book to the Netflix series:

Please be aware of what your children are watching. The link to set parental controls for Netflix is:

 Addressing the social and emotional needs of our students is a foundational district goal, one that we take very seriously. It is essential that we work in partnership with families on important issues that impact our students. We know these issues are challenging and I hope this information is helpful. If you have any concerns, please reach out to your child’s school counselor directly.  We are here to help. Thank you for your attention to this important topic.


Nancy l. Gustafson

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