Film poster for "The Bad Kids" with mom and baby looking over something together.
Film poster for "The Bad Kids" with mom and baby looking over something together.
An extraordinary principal’s journey to help her students realize their potential


Regular price $459.00



Education • At Risk Youth • Sociology • Adolescent Development • Leadership

Date of Completion: 2016 | Run Time: 84 and 101 minutes​​ | Language: English | Captions: Captions included in 101 minute version | Includes: Transcript & Educator Toolkit Directors: Keith Fulton & Lou Pepe 

    Located in an impoverished Mojave Desert community, Black Rock Continuation High School is one of California’s alternative schools for students at risk of dropping out.  Every student here has fallen so far behind in credits that they have no hope of earning a diploma at a traditional high school.  Black Rock is their last chance. THE BAD KIDS is an observational documentary that chronicles one extraordinary principal’s mission to realize the potential of these students whom the system has deemed lost causes. The film follows 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. As Principal Viland’s educational approach unfolds throughout the film, viewers are offered a practical model for how public education can address and combat the crippling effects of poverty in the lives of American schoolchildren.

     Library Journal | Ernest Jaeger, formerly with North Plainfield Schools
    "An intelligent and penetrating documentary that along with similar films SelectED and Paper Tigers offers a useful blueprint for creating schools that help students succeed. Recommended for academic education collections as well as public collections serving parents and those in government setting community and state education policies."

    Variety | Nick Schager
    "The Bad Kids details triumphs and failures with a clear, empathetic eye that’s attuned to the many forces working against these teens and the administrators tasked with helping them achieve their degrees."

    U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité FilmmakingSundance Film Festival
    Official SelectionCleveland International Film Festival
    Official SelectionTrue /False Festival 

    Download the Educator Toolkit

    Vonda Viland led the Morongo Unified School District’s alternative program for at-risk students for seven years, working with students who had been disenfranchised from the traditional school system. Approximately 90% of her student body lived below the poverty level with many struggling to deal with issues no child should have to face, including abuse, neglect, parenthood, depression, anxiety, and
    addiction. She and her staff developed an individualized program where they worked to educate the child, not just teach the curriculum. Living in such a remote area with extremely limited resources, she and her staff worked hard to meet the educational, emotional, and physical needs of their students. Vonda’s book, Lessons from the Bad Kids (Available on Amazon), presentations, and workshops center around the Sundance award-winning documentary film THE BAD KIDS, which features her educational approach and offers viewers a practical model for how public education can address and combat the crippling effects of poverty in the lives of American schoolchildren. ​ As a secondary English teacher for 16 years, Vonda received the Commitment to Excellence Award from the California Middle School Foundation and Partnership and was recognized as teacher of the year for the California League of Middle Schools Region 10. After earning her Master’s Degree in School Administration from Cal State, she worked as a site administrator at the elementary, secondary, and continuation levels. During her tenure in the district, Vonda served as several sites’ WASC coordinator and English Department Chairperson, an interdisciplinary team leader, a district English mentor, a peer coach, a BTSA provider, an AVID teacher, a GATE coordinator, and as the district’s grant writer. She wrote and led one successful Distinguished School application and three successful Model School applications. Vonda has presented numerous staff development programs, including California Middle School Symposium trainings on portfolio development and integrated instruction and district trainings on rubric development and utilization. Since her retirement from the site, she contracts with districts to train and mentor site administrators and consults to assist program improvement at continuation schools.