- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Parents are outraged after learning their children as young as 14 were required to write a suicide note from a first-person perspective in English class.

The homework at York Prep in the Upper West Side required students to write goodbye notes from the perspective of a character who kills herself in the best-selling book, “The Secret Life of Bees,” the New York Post exclusively reported.

The assignment also asked the students to explain why they chose to commit suicide.

“We were pretty stunned at the scope of the assignment,” a father of a ninth-grade student told the New York Post. “We thought this was such an outrageous assignment for a 14-year-old to get.”


English teacher Jessica Barrish’s assignment focused on having students channel fictitious character May Boatwright by writing about her legacy as if they were her, according to the report.

“How would you justify ending your life? What reasons would you give?” the project asked.

Ms. Barrish declined to comment, the New York Post said.

Simon Critchley — a philosophy professor at The New School university who recently taught a suicide note-writing workshop for adults — said the concern is unwarranted and that suicide is an important issue to be discussed, even among impressionable young teenagers.

“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 told the New York Post.