'Independent Lens' doc to put focus on alternative school for at-risk kids

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
At-risk students are profiled in "The Bad Kids" on "Independent Lens."
Courtesy Low Key Pictures

"The Bad Kids" trailer

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

One last chance: That’s what every student at Black Rock Continuation High School in California is facing.

They’re at-risk students who have fallen so far behind that, other than this school in an impoverished Mojave Desert community, they have no hope of earning a high school diploma.

In The Bad Kids, debuting at 9 p.m. Monday on Independent Lens, you’ll meet Principal Vonda Viland and her teachers, all on a mission to realize the potential of these supposed “lost-cause” students. It will be available for online viewing on Tuesday.

The documentary, which won the 2016 Sundance Film Festival special jury award for vérité filmmaking, follows Viland and her staff over a year as they coach at-risk students with compassion, respect and patience. Three students are in the spotlight: Lee, a new father who can’t support his family; Jennifer, a young woman grappling with sexual abuse; and Joey, an angry young man from an unstable home.

"These kids must become their own heroes, but the film’s mighty warrior turns out to be principal Vonda Viland, whose sparse eyebrows are like desert scrub, and whose clear-eyed purpose adds up to giving bereft teenagers respect and care from an adult," wrote The Village Voice's Daphne Howland. "Desert flowers can be hard to spot, but are often distinctly beautiful, and The Bad Kids has them in focus.

The film is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, public media’s initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help communities solve the high school graduation challenge and prepare all students for college and careers. 

 

 

 

Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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