Students Write Suicide Notes in Class Assignment

June 12, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

NEW YORK–Students at a private school on the Upper West Side in Manhattan were asked to write first-person suicide notes during an assignment for English class.

The assignment came while the class was reading the book “The Secret Life of Bees,” and required  students as young as 14 to write from the perspective of a character that commits suicide in the book.

Parents told the New York Post they were shocked when they learned about the assignment.

“We thought this was such an outrageous assignment for a 14-year-old to get,”  said a father of a ninth-grade student at the school. “We pay a lot of money to send our kids to the school.”

The school, York Prep, costs $41,200 to get into, and serves grades 6 through 12.

The project given out by teacher Jessica Barrish had students getting into the mindset of fictional character May Boatwright. “How would you justify ending your life? What reasons would you give?” the students were asked.

Headmaster Ronald Stewart told the Post no parents had complained.

And Simon Critchley, a philosophy professor at The New School, said any concerns may be unwarranted.

“I don’t see why this is inappropriate at all. If it is, then suicide is a taboo, and I simply think we have to think rationally about our taboos,” he said. “I think it might even help students acquire a more mature and reflective approach to a hugely important topic.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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