The Bad Kids

Dec. 22, 2016

If you're looking for a place to hide, this isn't it. At our school, we want you to demand that we help you. There is no shame in asking for help. – Vonda Viland, Principal, Black Rock High School

At a remote Mojave Desert high school, educators believe that empathy and life skills, more than academics, give at-risk students command of their own futures. At Black Rock High School, the methods are unique and the model is innovative: no punitive measures, no end-date, and no formal graduation.

Employing a vérité approach during a year at the school, The Bad Kids follows Black Rock High School principal Vonda Viland as she coaches three at-risk teens – a new father who can't support his family; a young woman grappling with sexual abuse; and an angry young man from an unstable home – through the traumas and obstacles that rob them of their spirit and threaten their goal of a high school diploma. The film depicts how a radical approach to education can combat the crippling effects of poverty in the lives of these so-called "bad kids."

Following an advanced screening of The Bad Kids, New America NYC presented a discussion at Tumblr on the intractable problem of generational poverty and how public education can better support all students in our nation's schools.


Victoria McCullough
Social Impact and Public Policy Director, Tumblr


Keith Fulton @BadKidsMovie
Co-Director, The Bad Kids

Lou Pepe @BadKidsMovie
Co-Director, The Bad Kids

Vonda Viland
Principal, Black Rock High School, Yucca Valley, California

India Williams @cisnational 
Alumna, Communities In Schools

Elena Silva @NewAmericaEd
Director, PreK-12, Education Policy Program, New America