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Local school districts, parents respond to Netflix suicide show controversy

Does '13 Reasons Why' glorify or prevent suicide?

Local school districts, parents react...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A TV series that is extremely popular with teens has generated debate and concern among parents and school officials.

The 13-part series on Netflix, "13 Reasons Why," was released a month ago and is about the suicide of a teen girl.

Critics say the show glorifies teen suicide, is too graphic and serious for younger teens and is easily watched on mobile devices without parents' knowledge.

However, proponents say anything that leads to family discussions and raises awareness about suicide is a good thing.

Earlier this week, the Lewis Palmer School District 38 in Monument, as well as Douglas County Schools, sent letters to parents alerting them to the controversy surrounding the show.

School Districts 11 and 20 in Colorado Springs say their administrators and staff are aware of the show and are discussing its possible impact on students.

"There's a scene in the movie where the girl goes to her school to get help and doesn't get it," said D-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby.  "We want kids to know that help is out there from trained adults who care."

D-20 spokeswoman Allison Cortez says individual district schools can decide what to tell parents and students about the show.

"Some folks knew about it," she said.  "We've had some parents say we have no idea what you're talking about, and we've had some parents surprised that their kids are watching the show."

Most districts direct parents and students to suicide prevention resources or make them available when requested.

The Weien family lives in D-20, which has had several suicides recently, and they said they have no plans to watch the show.

"It seems to hit some of the suicide topics people are unaware of," said Jake Weien.  "But it also glorifies suicide in a way."

Daughters Emma and Ellie Weien don't share the excitement many teens have about the show.

"I think that it does draw attention and awareness to suicide," said  Ellie, a seventh-grader.  "But I don't think it's best to be playing a story, or a show, or a TV show."

Emma Weien said she knew several of the recent teens who took their own lives.

"I went through that personally, and I don't want to go through it again," she said.  "It's a horrible feeling."

The girls' mother, Abbie Weien, said she and her husband try to closely monitor what their daughters watch online.

"One of the biggest rules in out house is that at 9 o'clock, your phone gets plugged in and doesn't get taken to your room," she said. "It gets left in the kitchen all night."

The Weiens won an award Thursday for designing art that helps people heal emotionally after losing a loved one to suicide.

Janet Karnes, of the Suicide Prevention Partnership in Colorado Springs, said she doesn't understand the controversy about a show based on a book that was published ten years ago.

"I don't think we can boil it down to if the show is positive or negative," she said.  "I think it is what it is, and that people are going to have to watch it and decide for themselves -- and their age groups -- where it fits in."


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