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The Bad Kids’ Documents High School For At-Risk Students

Black Rock High School principal, Vonda Viland speaks with student, Lee Bridg...

Credit: Low Key Pictures

Above: Black Rock High School principal, Vonda Viland speaks with student, Lee Bridges in a still from the documentary "The Bad Kids."

'The Bad Kids' Documents High School For At-Risk Students


Vonda Viland, principal, Black Rock High School


The more than 400 continuation high schools in California are often thought of as schools of last resort. They’re where students go when they’re at risk of not graduating because they’ve fallen too far behind, they work part-time or problems at home prevent them from attending school all day.

"The Bad Kids," a new Independent Lens documentary, profiles Yucca Valley’s Black Rock High School, a continuation school with a charismatic leader. Principal Vonda Viland said most of the students have experienced some sort of trauma.

Students are not sent to Black Rock as a punishment but are actively seeking help, Viland said. The school also doesn't dole out punishments itself.

"We work solely on positives, from a simple thing like, 'I'm glad you're here,'" Viland said. "These are the students who, traditionally, have not had any positive reinforcement in their lives. And so we find that just starting by giving them a small initial positive encourages them and motivates them to try harder.

"The Bad Kids" will be available to stream online starting Tuesday and will air Thursday at 11 a.m. on KPBS-2.

Viland joins KPBS Midday Edition on Monday with more on students' fears of graduating and what helped turn her own life around.

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