Parents, school administrators, and now public officials such as Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, suddenly want to have a public conversation about teen suicide thanks to the controversial hit Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”
The series, which is based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher, chronicles the effects on a school and community of a student’s suicide. But anyone who has actually seen the entire series will tell you it’s a lot more than a sensationalized tale about killing yourself. The show also examines just how mean some kids are and how adults are willing to turn their heads and look the other way.
Nonetheless, school administrators around the region have been firing off memos left and right warning parents about “the dangers of watching a show that glorifies suicide.”
While I’m sure many of these well-meaning school leaders genuinely care about the students in their care, let’s not forget schools can get sued if they don’t take preventative measures to ensure student safety, as illustrated in the 13-episodes of the show’s first season.
Schodack CSD is sending a letter home to parents regarding the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” 🔽 pic.twitter.com/afcwugVD2x
— Dylan Rossiter (@ByDylanRossiter) May 1, 2017
But sending a letter home doesn’t deal with the issues young people face today. Teenage suicide is undoubtedly a problem, but so is rape culture, bullying, and parental indifference, all problems that the show explores and worthy of conversation.
It’s also unseamly that Albany County Executive Dan McCoy would use the show to score political brownie points by holding a press conference with officials from North Colonie Central School District to speak out against teen suicide. Such manufactured news events are great at calling attention to problems, but they do little to address the complex issues behind these problems. It’s great to have a conversation, but it’s more difficult to effect change.
It’s also worth mentioning that Shaker High School last summer painted over a rock, in honor of a dead student because it was “vandalism.”
Bygones aside, North Colonie CSD Superintendent Joseph spoke with honesty and truth about the kids under his care.
“We are in the business for caring for the whole child. We take that business very seriously. What you see here today is a blanket of caring & compassion. Our kids, their futures, are so important. Together, we can bring change.”
But McCoy couldn’t cover up his motives, even taking the time to toss out a stat. “There are 58,163 reasons to have this press conference. That’s the same number of kids 18 & younger who live in Albany County.” I’m glad he knows how many teens live in his constituency but does he think every single one of them is at risk of suicide?
To McCoy’s credit, he did go on to speak the truth: “We need to talk about suicide and mental health so we can start to erase the stigma that surrounds them. The dialogue is important.”
The event, while a step in the right direction, couldn’t help but take a shot at the hit show, declaring that it “sends the wrong message” to kids seeking help. In actuality, the series shows how some schools don’t do enough to prevent the problem of teen suicide.
It is also worth noting the timing of McCoy’s press conference. As mentioned, the show came out weeks ago and most teenagers have either already seen it or know about it. But McCoy’s eagerness to address teen suicide comes just days after the publication of a Times Union investigation into McCoy’s hiring of family members for jobs inside Albany County.
Politics on the back burner, “13 Reasons Why” is a good show and it’s not deserving of the nasty press it’s been getting.
As a high school student it is a welcome breath of fresh air exposing the drama of high school in the age of social media, though I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a school where teachers and peers look out for each other.
-Dylan Rossiter( @ByDylanRossiter)