Muskegon joins districts warning parents about Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. Netflix is raising its Internet video prices by $1 per month for new customers and giving its current U.S. subscribers a two-year break from the higher rates. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

MUSKEGON, MI – The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District is the latest in a slew of schools nationwide warning parents about the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

The fictional Netflix series based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.

According to our media partners at Mlive, in a letter sent to parents and guardians on Thursday, April 27, Muskegon’s ISD expressed concerns that the series may be sending the wrong message when it comes to suicide and awareness.

“The adults in the series appear disconnected or unwilling to help the adolescents in the series,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, this could lead teens to believe that there would not be anyone that they could talk to in their school or home regarding depression and suicide.”

Showrunners have said the show is meant to open up conversation between teens and adults.

“Many people are accusing the show of glamorizing suicide and I feel strongly — and I think everyone who made the show — feel very strongly that we did the exact opposite,” writer Brian Yorkey, who won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for the musical “Next to Normal,” which grappled with mental illness, told the Associated Press.

“What we did was portray suicide and we portrayed it as very ugly and very damaging.”

Some suicide prevention groups, such as the JED Foundation, have said the series glamorizes teen suicide, and has portrayals that “are inconsistent with safe messaging guidelines around handling portrayals of suicide in media and works of fiction.”

The Muskegon Area ISD also offers a variety of support services to assist parents in discussing suicide with their children in its letter, including a link to JED Foundation.

Due to the graphic nature of the show and the fact that people have the ability to binge watch the program on Netflix, schools across the nation are speaking out against the popular series.

Muskegon certainly isn’t alone in its concerns. Grand Blanc Schools sent a similar letter to parents on April 24. Several other Michigan schools have, too. On a more national scale, Denver Public Schools released a letter warning parents about the show on Friday.

The show’s creators have defended the show since the backlash began. Teen icon Selena Gomez, one of the show’s executive producers, recently did so in an interview with E!

“I’m a little overwhelmed and very surprised,” she said. “I mean I believed in the project for so long and I understood what the message was. I just wanted it to come across in a way that kids would be frightened, but confused–in a way that they would talk about it because it’s something that’s happening all the time. So, I’m overwhelmed that’s it’s doing as well as its doing.”

All 13 episodes of “13 Reasons Why” and the special “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons,” were released worldwide on Netflix on March 31.

The show is rated TV-MA, which means is may be unsuitable for children under 17, and three episodes that contain explicit material have “viewer discretion advised” warnings.

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