Pasco has joined several school districts nationwide in offering advice to educators about the television series 13 Reasons Why.
Some school districts have sent notes home, warning parents about the Netflix production.
Pasco officials forwarded information from the National Association of School Psychologists to principals.
“There is a concern that students are watching the show without parent (or) guardian knowledge, which is especially concerning for kids who are more vulnerable,” said Sarah Thornton, the district’s assistant superintendent of operations and legal affairs.
The show, based on Jay Asher’s best-selling novel, debuted at the end of March. It tells the story of Hannah Baker, a teen who left behind 13 recordings before killing herself. Each of the messages is directed at a person and explains their role in her death.
The series has stirred concerns from psychologists, advocates and others about the show’s depiction of suicide, sexual assault and bullying.
Students and parents approached Wade Barrow, a Pasco High School counselor, with concerns about the show.
While the National Association of School Psychologists doesn’t recommend youth who have considered suicide watch the show, both the organization and Barrow said it isn’t likely to make a mentally healthy child consider suicide.
“Watching someone committing suicide, could that affect you in some way? Definitely,” Barrow said. “But to think that it’s going to make them do that? No.”
Watching someone committing suicide (on TV), could that affect you in some way? Definitely. But to think that it’s going to make them do that? No.
Wade Barrow, counselor
Parents have told Barrow they would rather their child not watch the show, but know they are likely going to find a way to view it.
In those cases, he recommends parents watch it.
“So they can see what their child might be viewing,” he said. “Then use it as an opportunity to talk to their kids — ‘how did this make you feel? What kind of reaction did you have when you watched that, or do you have any questions for me as a parent after watching that?’ ”
He also recommends asking open-ended questions that elicit a response about emotions provoked by the show.
Parents may be surprised by what their children reveal. Don’t give up if they don’t say anything, he said. They may not want to talk about their experiences at the moment, but offering the conversation lets them know their parents are willing to listen.
“The message that sends to them is, you know, that parent cares enough to ask about my day,” Barrow said. “So someday, if I ever feel like if I have something that I need to talk to my parent about, I know that I can.”
Parents can include school officials in the conversation, and share what they talked about with their children.
The message (talking to kids) sends is, you know, that parent cares enough to ask about my day. So someday, if I ever feel like if I have something that I need to talk to my parent about, I know that I can.
Wade Barrow, counselor
Barrow offered several warning signs parents should watch for in their children, including:
• Talking about wanting to die or killing themselves
• Talking about feeling hopeless
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Looking up ways to kill oneself
• Increased use of drugs or alcohol
• Withdrawing or talking about feeling isolated
• Displaying extreme mood swings or other changes in behavior
• Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
• Giving away personal items
Any one symptom might not be a sign that a child is danger, but combined they indicate a child might be suicidal.
“Regardless of whether they’re contemplating suicide or not, any of these signs should be a concern,” Barrow said.