“The Bad Kids” leads to important discussions on education

Indie Lens Pop-Up documentary screening creates space for community interaction

Artwork by Nora Peterson

Artwork by Nora Peterson

To localize discussions and bring the community together, an Indie Lens Pop-Up screening of the documentary “The Bad Kids” was held on Feb. 23 at the Twin Cities PBS location in St. Paul.

While the viewing of “The Bad Kids” was the primary event of the evening, the documentary created a discussion space for topics surrounding the narrative of the film.

The plot of the film follows how an alternative school for students at risk of dropping out tries to impact its pupils’ lives and keep them in the education system.

The film was set in an impoverished Mojave Desert community. The alternative high school featured, Black Rock Continuation High School, is one of California’s alternative schools where every student has fallen so far behind that they have little hope of earning a diploma at a traditional high school—Black Rock is their last chance.

Tireless Principal Vonda Viland and the teachers at Black Rock are on a mission to help students realize their potential, according to PBS’s website.

The systemic nature of the film left much to be discussed, and the Twin Cities PBS event featured a panel geared toward community-driven conversation.

James C. Burroughs II and Adrienne Diercks were the panelists leading this discussion.

Burroughs serves as Chief Inclusion Officer for the State of Minnesota. In this role, Burroughs is responsible for leading efforts to increase the percentage of jobs held by people of color across state government and expand economic opportunity for people with disabilities and others who are underrepresented within the state’s workforce.

Diercks is the Founder and Executive Director of Project SUCCESS. Her organization serves over 12,000 students and families in 17 public schools in the Twin Cities.

“I expected to share how my own experiences from 23 years of Project SUCCESS relate to the issues discussed in the film,” Diercks said. “To share stories of working with youth, what works, and what doesn’t. To explain that blanket solutions don’t work; that individualized attention and solutions are what make the greatest impact.”

The reactions regarding the film were varied. Diercks thought that most of the audience got a lot out of the film. She also witnessed how some related more with the teachers and the struggles they had, while others felt deeply on the stories of the three students.

“I think that James and I added some dimension to the film and were able to relate it to our local community,” Diercks said.

Diercks wanted the audience to understand that a holistic approach must be adopted when working with youth. She said that it’s important to find the spark for each individual student.

“Events like these are important for community building and understanding of the challenges that different students face,” Diercks said. “These types of events like the ‘Bad Kids’ screening allow attendees to open their eyes to new stories, perspectives, and opinions. Knowledge is power.”

The Indie Lens Pop-Up screening is being played at various PBS locations around the nation. The series is meant to draw residents, leaders, and organizations to discuss what matters most, from newsworthy topics to topics of family and relationships.

“Events like these are important for community building and understanding of the challenges that different students face,” Diercks said. “These types of events like the ‘Bad Kids’ screening allow attendees to open their eyes to new stories, perspectives, and opinions. Knowledge is power.”

The next Indie Pop-Up event held at the Twin Cities PBS location will be March 30 for the screening of “Newtown,” a film that depicts the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting.

The panelists for the upcoming event are Keith Jacobus, the superintendent of the South Washington County School District, and Commander John Lozoya, senior commander of the St Paul Police Department’s Community Engagement Unit.

Beyond March, several films are set to be screened in late spring, including “National Bird,” which touches on the topic of whistleblowers and “Real Boy,” an intimate story of a family navigating their emotions regarding their son’s gender transformation.

As far as take-aways from the “The Bad Kids” screening and discussion, the panelists hope more understanding of students can be reached.

“I support the efforts of TPT to bring high level programming to the community and was honored to be a part of the panel to discuss the film,” Diercks said. “As one of my favorite poems says, ‘There is no one in this world exactly like you.’  Reaching students who are dealing with challenges takes time and dedication and it’s important to pay attention to the small details, as well as the big picture.”