‘13 Reasons Why’: Canadian Schools Ban All Talk, Issue Warnings About Netflix Series

13 Reasons Why renewed season 2
Courtesy of Netflix

13 Reasons Why” is causing controversy in Canada after some schools have started warning parents about the graphic nature of the young adult adaptation, despite the show’s positive messages regarding bullying and suicide prevention.

After debuting on the streaming service on March 31, executive producer Selena Gomez’s hit series has become the subject of dispute at multiple Canadian school systems in less than a month. According to the CBC, St. Vincent Elementary School in Edmonton, Alberta, sent an email to the parents of sixth graders letting them know their students were prohibited from even mentioning the show on school grounds.



Variety TV Critics Discuss Graphic Depictions of Rape and Suicide in Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons Why’

“The discussion that is unfolding at school is troubling. This series is rated Mature and the theme is the suicide of a high school student. This show includes graphic violence (rape) and gore, profanity, alcohol/drugs/smoking, and frightening/intense scenes,” read the letter. “The purpose of this email is to provide you with this information. Please let your child know that discussion of ’13 Reasons Why’ is not permitted at school due to the disturbing subject matter.”

The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board took things a step further, claiming on their official website that the show was guilty of the “glamorization of suicidal behavior and [depicting] negative portrayals of helping professionals.”

But it’s not just individual school systems banning the tough subject material from its kids. School Mental Health Assist — an organization meant to aid school boards in Ontario — actually sent a memo urging teachers not to broadcast the Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford drama as educational material.

“Use of the Netflix series, ’13 Reasons Why,’ as a teaching tool is not recommended. The material is graphic and potentially triggering for vulnerable young people,” read the message.

However, not every school is immediately barring conversation on the controversial collection of episodes. The Community Suicide Prevention Network of Ottawa updated its website on Wednesday, offering parents suggestions on how to successfully discuss the intense themes of the show with their children, including, “What could you do differently if you were Hannah and the rest of the cast?”

While parents, teachers, and administrators may be taking issue with the TV adaptation of the YA novel, “13” remains the year’s most popular show on Twitter. All 13 episodes of “13 Reasons Why” and the “Beyond the Reasons” special are currently available to stream on Netflix.

Netflix didn’t immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

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  1. Sagitarriat Jefferspin says:

    “their students were prohibited from even mentioning the show on school grounds.”

    Wow, because, that’s an approach that’s really effective and works everywhere it’s been tried!

    Actually, it’s just CYA on the part of school officials. “We did our part! It was just a troubled kid, or, bad parents, or… and anyway, we can’t be responsible for everything that happens in their lives outside of school hours”

  2. Frost says:

    I have lost people too suicide the first was when I was 11 and he was 13 it was tragic, the others I lost when I was in highschool and I never saw the signs they needed help. This show it’s graphic yes and people complain about it but to tell kids not too talk about it is a bad move.

    I also saw in the show the students decorated a locker…. I think that’s a bad idea because they get attached too it and and if anyone is assigned that locker and they don’t know who it longed too then a lot of people will be upset. As someone who has been to the funerals of people who too they own lives I think a lot of you have no idea what your saying.

  3. rjpot says:

    I’ve read the statement of one school in the article saying that it glamorizes suicide, bullying, and whatever. Isn’t that what shows do? It highlights things and these things that they are referring are happening in real life and it is in many forms. School is the only place in this world where it can be discussed in a very open forum manner with an adult guiding the students. We want to discuss it lightly and comfortably in groups rather than talking it one-on-one when sometimes it’s too late.

    So yeah… Thirteen Reasons Why is one of the greatest examples of shows that have themes with bullying and suicide.

  4. Nina says:

    This is frightening! My brother, cousin and step-sister died by suicide. My mother told me to back to school and not talk about it. No one knew, no teachers or friends. I suffered in silence. This show evokes much needed discussion about suicide. Suicide is caused by circumstances: bullying, violence, sexual abuse and rape, war, etc. Society needs to take responsibilities for it’s actions. Otherwise, suicide will continue. And the so called professionals, my brother was seeing a psychiatrist that was charged with sexual abuse. My relatives are screaming in their graves. No censorship of this show.

  5. Phoenyx says:

    There’s irony in claiming that the show negatively portrays ‘helping professionals’, when by banning all talk about the show, the educational professionals are probably leaving the ‘vulnerable youths’ they’re trying to protect under the impression that they can’t talk about their own suicidal feelings, depression, or problems with bullying. The show could have been a way to open the door to communication. Instead they’ve shut it down. If you want to convince kids there’s another option besides suicide, don’t ban discussions related to traumas they may well be facing themselves.

  6. Dustin says:

    How asinine! The series takes a controversial topic that’s taboo and should be discussed in of all places SCHOOLS and at the supper table. School is where this sentiment is bread day in and day out. I think it’s an incredibly powerful series and should be heralded not chastised. Suicide is a real threat too many young adults especially teenagers who believe they’ve been picked on regularly or rape victims in this case who no one gives a shit about. It’s almost laughable that nothing is mentioned about shows like: The Walking Dead, Spartacus, Oz, Hannibal, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Weeds, Norcos, Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire, The Strain, Dexter, Hemlock Groves, Santa Clarita Diet, Gotham, Lilyhammer, Bates Motel, Stranger Things, Bloodlines, White Rabbit, I could go on all nite. To be far I personally enjoy about 75% of them as well, but the point is they are all dark they are suppose to be, they use and have profanity, sex, and violence in them. That’s why people watch them. The sole difference is that this is geared as a real life event (regardless of if it is or not). It’s powerful and should be discussed. If youth can’t feel protected at school and with friends and family then where are they suppose to turn to? Be the person you needed when you were a teenage not the self-righteous, condescending, hypocritical, complacent, overprotective pious prick you grew up to be. There are people that are struggling and need someone to give them just a few minutes of time, just a modicum of hope, and rather then making this a mainstream topic it’s being banned. Welcome to the sanctimonious Nazi book burnings of WWII people. It’s perfectly okay for vampires to rip the throats out of innocence people, but let’s get serious for a second and everyone goes insane. Just in case it’s needed the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Lifleline is: 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project is: 1-866-488-7386.

  7. azmovies says:

    Why? Your child maybe thinking about committing suicide. If they see the show, they can see how many it affect if they commit suicide. And it help also kids to look for signs with their friends and they can help.
    Your child will not take it the wrong way if you do your job and talk to them about it.

  8. Sheila says:

    Banning them from even speaking about it on campus? I don’t even know what to do with that.

  9. Brenda says:

    This is a show depicting what bullying can do. Have a brain and watch and discuss it with your kid sorry this is what life is like in the real world today maybe it’s good to learn and long with your child

  10. Joe Bobs Fine Foods says:

    Maybe we should let 6th graders watch and discuss hardcore scat porn in the name of open discussion. Or maybe we should acknowledge that the sixth grade brain doesn’t work the same as some of the adult free speech crusaders around these parts, and it might interpret these messages a little differently.

  11. The entertainment industry has destroyed the morals of America now their moving on to Canada. You boys and girls up north better hurry up and build that wall.

  12. Are you kidding me? I’m 31 with 4 children and I have battled depression and suicidal tendencies nearly my entire life. This show was incredibly well done and handled all of it beautifully. It did exactly what it set out to do which is show that suicides aren’t one dimensional and that there are multiple reasons for them and multiple points of time where they can be stopped.

    I find it highly ironic that one of the biggest parts of this show is that it points out the “anti-bullying” stance the schools take as being malarkey as it still continues but the school’s hands are tied or they just gloss over it. Isn’t it ironic that it’s the schools talking about banning it?

    When I watched this I thought that it should be necessary for all parents and teachers to watch. Also, don’t just watch the show, watch the behind the scenes as well. There was a lot that went into this. As my kids age we WILL be watching this and discussing it together. I’m sorry the educational system is stuck in the 50’s thinking this romanticizes suicide. Because it doesn’t. It shows how many lives and choices screwed hers up and how many lives she affected with her choice. You can’t get more real than that. Can’t believe Selena Gomez was the executive producer. I was not expecting that!

  13. Patrick burns says:

    They should be able to talk openly about rape and suicide especially when it involves school age children sorry to say this but of all ages it’s about time we all face a reality check about this matter what are they going to band next talking about school shooting they involve all school age children especially in America were god forbid they change all their gun control laws schools like to shuns away from topics like this that’s why there is no real action taken for children of all ages again that bully other children so bad that that child either takes there own life because of it or there retaliate with more agressivness such as gun violence in schools.
    I mean for god sake we have children that are getting pregnant at a very young age very young schools don’t want to talk about suicide amongst young school age children because they themselves cannot handle the questions about it they themselves have no real answer to give or even to help children in these situations again schools should wake up and face reality because whether or not it’s happening in schools across the world

  14. Kendra Barkle says:

    I am reading of school’s,parent’s and etc.wanting to banned this show why? Cause it is speaking the truth cause it’s telling our kid’s that are kid’s what can happen to how you treat someone wrong. I feel the reason people want it banned is cause it speaks the truth. We want to blame someone for the action and never ourselves. Parents need to start listening to their children to understand not to just respond. Pay attention to them more spend time with them ask them what they want don’t just tell them . People are so wrapped up in daily life thing’s thar they forget how to be human and respect themselves and one another and really appreciate what one has to offer.

  15. Bryan says:

    Just continue to shelter your students bravo! This is very risky Canada, please let the kids have an outlet and speak their minds on reality!

  16. Jacob denness says:

    More we don’t talk about it won’t be a problem bs

  17. Andrew says:

    Ridiculous. This never happened when I was younger and went to school. They are allowed to just tell students what they can’t mention and talk about.

    So suicide doesn’t exist, or depression or bullying. They aren’t doing this to help students because everyone knows that schools simply don’t help the victims or bullying, or the marginal members. They are doing this because they are scared of facing such a serious issue head on, and no doubt affraid of suicides which could be potentially linked to this TV show.

    What a joke schools have become.

  18. darren dorey says:

    No doubt the very same people jumping up and down and suggesting children not speak on the playground only read the “content” without ever having seen a single episode. Unfortunately it’s the ones who are least informed, the ones who preach the Bible but have never actually read it only repeat what they were told that create the great problems. Children are far more aware than they are given credit for. If parents and school personal are just becoming aware and discussing it now, the school children have been talking about it and likely seen it months ago.

  19. Vlad says:

    Alberta morons are the biggest idiots in the whole mapple leaf village.

  20. Robert G says:

    Kids who are bullied don’t commit suicide. Kids with mental health issues do.

    • Josh Fremen says:

      As a psychologist who has studied suicide behavior for the last 15 years. You are 100% incorrect. Suicide can be done by those with mental disabilies and your average day folk without any mental disability what so ever.

    • Bryce says:

      Kids who are raped usually commit suicide tho

    • Kye says:

      I recently had a friend commit suicide. This is complete bullshit. It can happen to the most capable an intelligent people. Please don’t go around preaching this dumb shit.

    • Bryan says:

      That’s not a fact!!

  21. lucifer says:

    maybe they should come up with a ban in schools for bullies.like get expelled and some criminal charges
    hows that to scare them way.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I watch the show, and as a parent I liked it. My girls had watch before I could watch it and they like the show also. Being bullied is a huge issue Especially since kids post everything on social media. If you went high school you that, that timein your life is hard. I think parents should watch and look for signs and talk to your kids about everything. Hannah hide her depression pretty well. I think it helps open up Discussions about suicide and being bullied. Stop trying to hide it like it doesn’t happen. Also this based on book that some kids are reading in school.

  23. Sam says:

    Yeah that’s how to deal with a problem don’t talk about it they are ridiculous I know they’re talking about kids that are on the young side but that is exactly the ones that need to talk about this subject in an open and frank way because I can guarantee you these kids are right in the middle of all of that stuff and telling them not to talk about it is ridiculous

  24. Steven says:

    why do you need to show graphic rape scenes? and then repeat them over and over again? what is the purpose of that? not art. a millions ways to get the message across and not use repeat shock tactics. what you are also doing is de-sensitising people and the target audience (the KIDS) even further. yet people applaud graphic violence and hide behind art and censorship etc while the envelope gets pushed further and further to make it more shocking and controversial. if you think it’s alright and you think that showing graphic rape then something is wrong with you.

    • Lana says:

      I get what you are saying. We as a society are being exposed to more graphic things that in the past would never have made it onto a story board nevermind any form of media. I don’t think you should call it de-sensitising. I would call it revealing. Revealing how things are, really are. In the case of ’13 reasons why’, the ‘graphic’ rape scenes showed us rape. News flash, rape is graphic. No pussy footing around and flowery camera shots could make it in anyway less graphic and nor should it.

      The rape scenes were repeated most likely to show that people don’t get over rape and personally if it bothered you that much, which I respect because it was difficult to watch, you should have stopped. No one forced your hand. I don’t think it was for the sake of art but the sake of truth.

      How could anyone think that showing ‘graphic’ rape is okay you ask? You should be asking how could anyone think rape is okay. Because it isn’t and the show covered that and it showed the gritty reality of rape and no matter how ‘graphic’ you found this, it was reality. No one should think rape is okay and if it didn’t happen, it wouldn’t be displayed ‘graphically’ on your TV. However it does and people should know about it. About how it affects people and why it isn’t okay no matter how ‘graphic’

    • Steven, as someone who’s been in that situation as a teen, I can tell you that as uncomfortable as it might have made you, it is far worse for those of us who are silenced because people (often men) don’t want to deal with it. The rape scenes in this show were not in any way graphic. They did, however, show people who haven’t been victimized how devastating rape is. As well, for survivors, it gives us a voice.

      What you are advocating for is denial. When things are uncomfortable or painful, and we just don’t want to see it. That is denial. These scenes are done with compassion for all survivors of rape. It is not tacky or sexual in any way.

      It is frustrating that you say ” if you think it’s alright and you think that showing graphic rape then something is wrong with you” because you are playing the game that keeps victims silent. Its called gaslighting. Making people question their own judgement because you want to shut down the conversation.

      If you want to be part of the solution, learn more, speak less and offer compassion in place of judgement.

    • Genesis says:

      I am honestly tired of reading and hearing about all of these complaints saying the show was too graphic and violent. Why does it matter now? We were encouraged to talk about rape and suicide, but when it’s shown on a worldwide platform that depicts a situation in which many girls and guys find themselves on a daily basis, we are told to push it away and not look at it because it’s too real? How does any of this make sense? As a teenager, I wonder if any of you have every tried to actually understand the message this show was conveying, rather than only focusing all of the attention on something deemed too explicit. Why is it that the people criticizing it are all mostly adults? I was not impacted by these graphic scenes. I was impacted by her story, what she went through, by her feelings, by her words, by the cruelness of other people, and the sad story between her and the guy she liked. Why can’t that stay in your head? Why isn’t this seen as a reason to talk more openly to teenagers about suicide and rape, rather than criticize it?

      • Sagitarriat Jefferspin says:

        You are absolutely right.
        Most of the people coming out in opposition to the show, are doing it on these fake grounds (“glorifies suicide”) because they have an ulterior motive or true agenda. (E.g., school officials wanting to wash their hands of responsibility / limit their responsibilities; adults who want to place blame on others; etc.)

  25. OC2OK says:

    “Positive message about suicide”. You must of bullied in school if so that sucks but the message is not positive. It glamorizes suicide as an awesome way to get even and make people feel so guilty they may even kill themselves as a response. Extremely dangerous way to handle such a difficult topic. Every mental health provider disagrees with you about this show having a positive message. However, ofcourse it should be seen and watched and discussed. But SJW policy is ban speech. Good job Canada.

    • I disagree completely. It doesn’t romanticize suicide at all. It literally sets out and accomplishes just that. It shows how many people contributed through bullying, neglecting, ignoring, and harming her and how many people she affected with her choice. It doesn’t glamorize it. It lays it all out. Naked and bare for us to cringe at. To feel those raw emotions. To discus things that barely get spoken about (like rape and suicide). It points out the lie that is the school anti-bullying stance. It points out how lonely suicide is and what it is like AFTER you are gone. It showed the effects it had (the teens went so far as discussing killing Clay to shut him up, Alex attempts suicide -no idea if it was successful-, Tyler had a trunk full of guns/etc and you are left unknowing if he was going to take out his school now or if all of this stopped him from doing so, etc). It was dramatic. On purpose. But it was damn well done and even at 31 this hit me so hard as it really showed what high school and depression is like. I’m lucky I am still here. But even to this day depression and suicide are something I battle daily. My teen years were the worst part of it. High school is unrelenting, damaging, and so many more things. I mean.. unless you are at the top of the food chain. The world needed this show and instead of parents worrying about “romanticizing suicide” they should be watching this to be hit with the reality that regarding that show and those characters, there were dozens of times that just having that real, human connection and a voice to what was going on could have saved her. Think about the teens and adults in your life that could be feeling the same way with you being oblivious to it. Teens should be watching this to snap them out of the “me” mentality. Knock them down a few pegs to realize their actions and inactions could absolutely be harming someone else.

    • Scott S says:

      Exactly, thank you for saying this.

      • David says:

        as someone who lost a sibling to teen suicide I concur. If you commit suicide you’re dead. it’s over. you don’t come back in flashbacks. your family is devastated. there is no season 2

  26. Maxwell J Ritz says:

    So much for teaching students the importance of free speech…

  27. allen fong says:

    North Korea coming to a school nest you!

  28. Bob says:

    Before everybody pontificates about this, it might be useful to review the Canadian suicide statistics.

  29. Dru says:

    use parental controls parents. stop censoring art

  30. nerdrage says:

    Prohibited from mentioning the show at school? What Netflix marketing genius was behind that idea!

  31. MouseHunt says:

    sixth grade elementary kids watching this? blame the parents showing them rape, lol, its a mature show for a reason

    • nerdrage says:

      True, it’s listed as MA, so the target audience shouldn’t even be watching it!

      • Abby says:

        Please, give teens more credit, in my experience as a counsellor, they can be much more mature and understanding than some of my colleagues, besides, the issues presented in the show are issues a lot of teens face today, and I feel that it should, at the very least, be talked about.

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