Nfld. & Labrador

Don't work 13 Reasons Why into your lesson plan, NLESD tells teachers

There are more than a baker's dozen when it comes to the number of groups raising the red flag about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

NLESD the latest group to weigh in on the popular, yet controversial show

NLESD's Lucy Warren says students can talk about the series 13 Reasons Why, but it should not be used by teachers as a basis for curriculum. (CBC/Getty Images)

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) is directing teachers that the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why should not serve as the basis for any classroom instruction. 

"This [isn't] an authorized curriculum resource because it hadn't been vetted by our professional staff who would have expertise in that area," says Lucy Warren, assistant director of education.

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why traces the life events of teenager Hannah Baker, who sends a series of tapes to classmates she believes played a role in her death by suicide. (Netflix)

The NLESD, via a memo distributed to administrators dated May 2, is the latest organization to wade into the public discourse about the series, which is based on a young adult novel. The plot revolves around the suicide of high school student, Hannah, and the 13 reasons she cites — via cassette tapes left behind for a classmate — that contributed to her death by suicide.

Many groups have sounded the alarm about its content, including the Centre for Suicide Prevention as well as the Canadian Mental Health Association — with the latter stating it "is concerned that the series may glamourize suicide."

Suicide is a 'serious and sensitive topic'

Warren said the NLESD's directive definitely does not mean kids aren't allowed to talk about the series while at school, unlike the strict measures other schools across the country have adopted.

13 Reasons Why touches on many issues affecting teens, including sexual assault and bullying. (Beth Dubber/Netflix)

Warren said the NLESD believes there is a right time, a right place and especially a right person to have those conversations surrounding the subject matter of the series.

"Suicide is a serious and sensitive topic ... it's not about not having it talked about, we would certainly support that. But we want authorized resources to be used, and we certainly would want trained staff to be doing that with groups of students," Warren told CBC Radio's On the Go

"Our guidance counsellors would be the person on site who would have the most expertise in this." 

Warren said the NLESD recently completed first aid and mental health training, which included a suicide awareness component, so there is now an administrator in all schools with those resources.

Pop star Selena Gomez, front left, sits with cast members of 13 Reasons Why, which she co-produced. (Beth Dubber/Netflix)

The NLESD, as well as school districts across the country and even the world, are trying to navigate the popularity of the series and its themes.

"Not in my experience have we issued anything of this nature. I've been a teacher and a school administrator and we would always be alert to things like this," Warren said.

"We don't know from our audience of students who might be affected by [the series] in what way, and some of them would no doubt be vulnerable."

In response to mounting criticism, Netflix has recently added additional viewer warnings, including a warning before the start of the first episode. 

But the concerns don't appear to be slowing the show's momentum — it's expected to be renewed for a second season.

With files from On the Go