What Teachers Need to Know About "13 Reasons Why"

Address concerns about this popular Netflix series and support students in processing the show and its themes.

May 15, 2017
Erin Wilkey Oh Executive Editor, Education Marketing
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Parents and Families, Students

If you work with middle or high school students, you've no doubt already heard about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Based on the best-selling 2007 book, the show revolves around a teen girl who commits suicide, leaving behind a series of tapes that hold the story of her motives.

Across the country, schools are grappling with how to address parents' concerns about the series and how to help students process the show and its themes. The series depicts graphic scenes of sexual assault, rape, and suicide, and many adults -- including mental health practitioners -- worry that teens with mental health issues may conclude that suicide is the only solution to their struggles. In addition, many tweens and young teens are watching the series, causing great concern among parents and experts who feel the show's themes are too mature for younger kids.

Schools and educators are responding to these concerns in a variety of ways: sending messages home, hosting parent panels, and even using the series as a springboard for action. One high school in Michigan started a 13 Reasons Why Not campaign to raise awareness and open up a conversations about teen mental health.

Given how TV and movies can facilitate conversations about difficult topics, teachers might consider using the popularity of 13 Reasons Why as an opportunity to talk with students about suicide, rape, mental health, and how schools can support kids.

If you're looking for ideas on how to respond to the series, a host of organizations have resources to help parents, educators, and students process the show's difficult topics:

In addition, many of Common Sense Education's digital citizenship lessons can be used to start conversations in the classroom on key topics from 13 Reasons Why: