fair warning

New York City the latest district to warn parents about Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons Why’

Parents of New York City students could soon receive a letter from their schools urging them to “be aware” of what their children are watching, namely the hit Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

The show, based on a young adult novel, focuses on 13 audio tapes left behind by a high school student who later commits suicide, each one blaming a person in her life. On Tuesday, the city emailed principals a letter to send home, warning parents that “the series addresses sexual assault, bullying, suicide, and the failure of adults to respond to students’ concerns.”

The series, recently named the “most tweeted about show of 2017,” is wildly popular among teens. But guidance counselors across the country have raised concerns that it could glorify suicide and sends the wrong message to viewers about how to handle emotional pain.

Other school districts have already sent similar letters, as did at least one private school, the Stephen Gaynor School on the Upper West Side. That letter called the series “dangerous” and suggested parents keep their children from watching it, if possible. Netflix, responding to the controversy, recently agreed to update its trigger warnings on the show.

The city’s letter urges parents to talk with their children if they are watching the show, and to “fill in the informational blanks” they may have as a result. It also invites parents to call their school’s guidance counselor or social worker for assistance.

The city also sent a letter to principals on how to handle discussions of the show or mental health issues that crop up at school, along with links to more information. “The emotional and physical safety of our students is our top priority,” it states. “It is important to be prepared for conversations that may occur among our students regarding this show around depression, mental health and suicide.”

Full letter to parents below:

Dear Families,

Our first priority is providing a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students. As parents and educators, it is important that we be aware of what our young people are watching, reading and talking about. This helps open the door for important conversations centered on topics that interest them. It also provides an opportunity for you to offer support and guidance and be aware of what information they may be getting from the media and their peers.

Many students are watching and talking about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Based on a novel by the same name, the main character leaves behind audio recordings for those individuals she feels played a role in her decision to take her life. Over the thirteen episodes, the series addresses sexual assault, bullying, suicide, and the failure of adults to respond to students’ concerns.

When an incident, local or national event, or TV show is in the media and spurs conversation for our young learners, it is important that we be available to fill in the informational blanks. In doing so we can provide support and a variety of resources should they or someone they know ever face the pressures and/or impact of experiences such as those depicted in this show. As family members and educators we can and should partner to participate in these conversations in order to speak thoughtfully and sensitively with students about their views of and reactions to this fictional series.

If your child is talking about this series or you are aware that they are watching it, ask them what they are thinking about it. Remind them that you are there for them and that there are school professionals always available to answer questions, to listen and to connect them with people and places to assist them with anything that challenges them.

Below are a few links that provide information that may assist you in having a conversation about the series with your child. Also, please contact us at school to address any concerns that you may have about your child, and to assist in answering any questions they might have or resources they may need.
Please call our school counselor or social worker at _______________ if you need any assistance and as always, please call me directly at my office number _______________.


A student is in custody after Noblesville West Middle School shooting that injured another student and teacher

Police asses the scene outside Noblesville High School after a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25, 2018 (Photo by Kevin Moloney/Getty Images)

A male student shot and injured a teacher and another student at Noblesville West Middle School on Friday morning, police said.

Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the shooting suspect asked to leave a class and returned armed with two handguns. The suspect, who police said appeared to be uninjured, is in custody and has not been identified by police.

The teacher, 29-year-old Jason Seaman, was in “good” condition Friday evening at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, police said. The female student, who was not identified by police, was in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children.

News outlets were reporting that Seaman intervened to stop the shooter, but authorities said they could not confirm that on Friday afternoon.

The Noblesville Police Department has a full-time school resource officer assigned to the school who responded to the incident, Jowitt said. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies also responded to the shooting.

“We do know that the situation resolved extremely quickly,” Jowitt said. “We don’t know what happened in the classroom, so I can’t make any kinds of comments about what [the resource officer’s] involvement was.”

Students were evacuated to Noblesville High School on Friday morning, where families met them.

Jowitt said an additional threat was made at the high school, but they had “no reason to believe it’s anything other than a communicated threat.”

Police continue to investigate. They said they do not believe there are additional suspects. Noblesville Police spokesman Bruce Barnes could not say how the student acquired the guns, but he said search warrants have been issued.

Noblesville West Middle School enrolls about 1,300 students. Noblesville is a suburb of Indianapolis, about 20 miles north in Hamilton County. The district has about 10,500 students.

The frenzied scenes Friday outside the school have become sadly familiar. Already, there have been 23 school shootings in 2018 that involved someone being injured or killed, according to media tallies.

Just last week, 10 people were killed and 13 others were injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston. A student at the school has been arrested and charged.

In February, 17 people — 14 students and three staff — were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a 19-year-old faces multiple charges.  The Parkland tragedy set off a wave of student activism across the country — including in Indianapolis — calling for stricter gun control.

“We’ve had these shootings around the country,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear. “You just never think it could happen in Noblesville, Indiana. But it did.”

Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer praised the “heroic” efforts of school staff and students, saying they followed their training on how to react to an active shooter situation.

Barnes also hinted at the broader trauma that school shootings can have on students and communities.

“We ask for your prayers for the victims in this case,” he said. “I think that would include a lot of kids, not only ones that were truly the victims in this case, but all these other kids that are trying to make sense of this situation.”

Watch the press conference:

A Chalkbeat reporter is on the scene:

In a pattern that has become routine, Democratic and Republican politicians offered prayers on Twitter.

temporary reprieve

Parents score a temporary victory in slowing the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Protesters gathered at the education department's headquarters to protest a recent set of closure plans.

A judge blocked the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school Thursday — at least for now.

Three families from P.S. 25/the Eubie Blake School filed a lawsuit in March backed by the public interest group Advocates for Justice, arguing the city’s decision to close the school was illegal because the local elected parent council was not consulted.

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Katherine Levine did not make a final ruling Thursday about whether the closure plan violated the law. But she issued a temporary order to keep the school open while the case moves forward.

It was not immediately clear when the case will be resolved or even if the school will remain open next year. “We are reviewing the stay and will determine an appropriate course of action once the judge makes a final decision on the case,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in a statement.

The education department said the school has hemorrhaged students in recent years and is simply too small to be viable: P.S. 25 currently enrolls just 94 students in grades K-5.

“Because of extremely low enrollment, the school lacks the necessary resources to meet the needs of students,” Holness wrote. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide oversight board that must sign off on all school closures, voted in February to close the school.

But the school’s supporters point out that despite low test scores in the past, P.S. 25 now ranks among the city’s top elementary schools, meaning that its closure would force students into lower-performing schools elsewhere.

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The lawsuit hinges on a state law that gives local education councils the authority to approve any changes to school zones. Since P.S. 25 is the only zoned elementary school for a swath of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the department’s plans would leave some families with no zoned elementary school dedicated to educating them, forcing students to attend other district schools or enter the admissions lottery for charter schools.

That amounts to “effectively attempting to change zoning lines” and “unlawfully usurping” the local education council’s authority to determine those zones, according to the lawsuit.

But even if the education department loses the lawsuit, the school’s fate would still be uncertain. The closure plan would theoretically be subject to a vote from the local education council, whose president supports shuttering the school.

Still, Haimson hopes the lawsuit ultimately persuades the education department to back away from closing the school in the long run.

“My goal would be to get the chancellor to change his mind,” Haimson said. “I don’t think the future is preordained.”