NYC school teacher assigns students to write suicide note

NYC school teacher assigns students to write suicide note

School SignBe prepared: That’s the Boy Scouts’ motto. Not to be undone in equipping her students for all ups and (especially) downs, a teacher at a pricey Upper West Side private school on Thursday instructed students as young as 14 to write a first-person suicide note.

The New York Post reports that the homework assignment, by fledgling English teacher Jessica Barrish, drew its inspiration from “The Secret Life of Bees,” a best-selling book that her classes at York Prep had read. The specific assignment was to pen their own farewell missives from the perspective of a character in the book who does indeed take her own life.

The task, the Post notes, included justifying why they had committed suicide, a grim prospect that rattled a few nerves. The unnamed father of one ninth-grade student at the school is quoted as saying:

We were pretty stunned at the scope of the assignment. We thought this was such an outrageous assignment for a 14-year-old to get. We pay a lot of money to send our kids to the school.

Tuition at the school, which covers grades 6 through 12, is slated to be $41,200 in the coming school year.

Barrish, who previously taught for three years in the public schools, is not the first teacher to make waves by using suicide notes as a vehicle for the teaching of creative writing. Nor were all opinions of the assignment negative. Simon Critchley, who teaches philosophy at The New School, told the Post:

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. I think it might even help students acquire a more mature and reflective approach to a hugely important topic.

Critchley knows a thing or two about assigning suicide notes, having recently taught a suicide note-writing workshop for adults.

As for the view that suicide note assignments are painless, someone should try telling that the mother of a student in England who was given a similar writing assignment last June. When the woman, unaware of the project, stumbled upon the note, she received the scare of her life.

Barrish, for better or worse, filed a $2 million lawsuit against a college pal who tortured and killed her beloved cat — and allegedly trashed her Upper East Side apartment.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.

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