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13 Reasons Why (No Spoilers)

13 Reasons Why is an incredibly powerful, important, and well-done production.  I promise not to reveal any of the plot in this article, so it is safe to read for anyone who intends to watch.  Netflix has released two seasons each of 13 episodes with a plan to release a third season in 2019.  The first season, as a fresh concept with the shock value that comes with a novel approach, was superior to season two, which had to move forward with a different focus.  That said, despite a few minor flaws, it did not disappoint and ended leaving us wanting to see what happens in the third season.  Whether you choose to “binge watch” or take your time, you should watch this show.

Parents should watch this show and can determine whether their older children should also watch.  Specific episodes contain appropriate warnings that there may be content intended for more mature audiences.  Every episode contains information and encouragement for anyone in need to contact suicide hotlines and other services.  There is powerful interaction between the characters portraying crucial issues of bullying, sexual assault, drug use, and the impact of school social strata.  Although there are some recognizable faces in the cast, the success of the show is the ability to generate compelling, unfortunately all too real situations with regular people.  While this particular school seems to have more than its share of challenges, the point is to offer viewers the reality that exists in an average school.  Every school system is dealing with these critical challenges, trying to keep students safe, focused, and learning.  What happens when they fail, when the parents fail, or even when the students fail.

Bullying, in all its forms, is among the most critical issues facing schools and families across society.  No community is immune, but some enjoy better progress than others.  Quite plainly, bullying is despicable, intolerable behavior that often produces drastic consequences.  While not every victim takes their own life, there are serious and potentially lifelong implications.  No child should have to go to school with the added anxiety stemming from the unpredictability or likelihood of when the next incident will occur.  Victims are humiliated if not physically injured, both leaving lasting mental scars.  Such reprehensible conduct requires serious repercussions.  Bullies should face punishment that deters them and others from similar misbehavior and commensurate with the damage they have caused to others.

Schools must be accountable for providing a safe environment for all students, including zero tolerance for bullying.  Officials need to maintain strong awareness and watch for the signs of both the bullies and the bullied.  Victims must feel safe approaching school officials without fear that their situation will be made worse as a result.  Officials must utilize effective measures to address, prevent, and punish the bullying.  This is not a “right of passage” of an opportunity to teach toughness.  There are sufficient other such lessons.  Bullying must be eradicated.

Parents must also be accountable.  There is no such valid excuse as a parent is too busy to raise, nurture, and supervise their children.  Most teenagers begin to withdraw more and engage less with their parents.  Nevertheless, that is the responsibility of parenting – to determine how best to understand and speak to their children.  There are signs of bullying, both for victims and perpetrators and parents must be aware.  More importantly, when notified by a school official, neighbor, or anyone else, at that point they must take appropriate corrective action.  Under no circumstances may parents allow their children to continue to bully others.  Parents can and should be held legally liable for the actions of their children.

13 Reasons Why provides an excellent window into this and related problems.  Although grounded in Hollywood entertainment, it is sufficiently realistic to have significant educational value for appropriate audiences.  As a society, we must continue to address bullying in the strongest way.  Watch the show.

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