TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. - The Ken-Ton school district superintendent sent an email to parents and guardians this week with a warning about a popular new Netflix series.

Some say "13 Reasons Why" glorifies teen suicide. The show tells the story of teenager Hannah Baker, who decides to take her own life. On the show, a classmate listens to audio tapes that detail why Hannah Baker blames specific people for her suicide.

In a letter dated Wednesday, May 10, 2017, Superintendent Stephen Bovino urges parents to be mindful of what their children are watching and reading. He encourages parents to start a conversation with their kids about the topic and remind them there are people at the school they can talk to if they feel they need help.

May 10, 2017

Dear Parents & Guardians,

Many of you may be aware of a new Netflix series that began airing in March entitled “13 Reasons Why,” which is based on a young adult novel by author Jay Asher. The main character in the series is a teenager named Hannah Baker who decides to take her own life. She leaves behind a series of cassette recordings for those who played a role in her decision. Each episode focuses on one of the recordings and the events and people that led her to take her own life. The series has received a great deal of attention, and many young people are watching it.

“13 Reasons Why” contains mature and serious subject matter including suicide and graphic depictions of sexual assault. Other themes are bullying and cyberbullying, voyeurism, substance abuse, revenge, and the failure on the part of adults in the main character’s life to respond to her concerns. Because it is sometimes easy for young people to identify with characters they see on screen, serious concerns have been raised about the show. Some fear that it might glorify suicide and self-harm for some viewers, and that it might undermine the importance of seeking help for those who face turmoil and difficulty in their lives. The National Association for School Psychologists recommends that vulnerable youth not watch the series.

Our goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment for our students. As parents and educators, being informed about what they are watching, reading and discussing helps us understand what might influence them and be ready to provide support and guidance. It also helps us be prepared to engage them in conversations and speak thoughtfully and sensitively about important topics that might be on their mind.

If your child is watching the series or talking about it, it is an opportunity to ask them what they think about it and to remind them that you are there for them if they need it. It is also an opportunity to remind them that they always have access to professionals at the school who can listen to them, answer their questions, connect them with resources, and help them through any challenges they might face.

There is information available for parents who wish to know more about “13 Reasons Why” and how to approach it, including the following:

In an emergency, immediate assistance is always available through the Buffalo and Erie County crisis hotline at (716) 834-3131. If you have any concerns about the health, safety and well-being of your child or others, please do not hesitate to reach out to a teacher, school administrator, or the school’s counseling department. There are mental health professionals in all schools and through the district Family Support Center who are trained and ready to provide assistance to any student or family.

We all want to support our children and students in making healthy choices, and I hope you have found this information helpful.


Stephen Bovino,
Superintendent of Schools