Westchester County Principal Warning Parents of Netflix Series '13 Reasons Why'

What to Know

  • A Westchester County principal is warning parents of a new Netflix series that deals with teenage suicide and sexual assault
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers and some parents don't want the show to be an "instruction manual"
  • The series is intended for mature audiences, but parents know that doesn’t guarantee the immature won’t see it or be influenced by it

A Westchester County middle school principal is cautioning parents about a popular new Netflix series called "13 Reasons Why" that focuses on topics like teenage suicide and sexual assault.

Fearing the possibility that life might imitate art, the principal at Rye Middle School sent out a letter to parents reminding them to be aware. 

“Some viewers and mental health organizations are beginning to question the series and its appropriation for impressionable young viewers,” the letter said.

The Netflix series is intended for mature audiences, according to its official rating, but parents know that doesn’t guarantee younger kids won’t see it.

Rye parent Scott Bross said the show deals with tough topics.

“I don't know how to handle it yet,” he added.

With suicide being the third-leading cause of death among teenagers and young adults, child psychologist Adam Stein cautions some are more vulnerable than others.

"Someone who has a pre-existing problem,” Stein said. “Identified or yet to be identified mental health problem, trauma, behavioral problem or someone who has experienced a recent loss."

Cautionary tale or a dangerous diversion, or something in between -– parents who have received letters are thinking about the series and whether their kids should watch.

“You don't want them to use it as sort of an instruction manual,” parent Jennifer Cohen said.

Netflix did not respond to NBC 4 New York requests for comment, but a show writer who once tried to take his own life defended the series in a Vanity Fair op-ed, saying the show gives kids hope and shows they are not alone.

"I was struck by how relevant and even necessary a show like this was," Nic Sheff, a writer for the series told Vanity Fair in the op-ed. "Offering hope to young people, letting them know that they are not alone — that somebody out there gets them."

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text HOME to 741741 for a Crisis Text Line.

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