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TV show sends 7 adults undercover to a Kansas high school

Their search for a school that viewers could relate to led them to Kansas. “One of the things that was important ... The seven embeds moved into apartments and homes around Topeka. Some of them rode the bus to school, a couple of them lived close by ...

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TOPEKA, Kan(AP) — The country is about to get an intimate look at what it’s like to be in high school these days through the eyes of seven young adults who went back to school in Kansas — undercover. During the spring semester of 2017, the 20-somethings, who came from across the country, went to school with students at Highland Park High School in Topeka. They enrolled as real students, went to classes, took tests, and went to sporting events, dances and graduation, all the while living in Topeka during filmingCameras followed them and the students they interacted with. What they saw, heard and experienced became an 11-part documentary series, “Undercover High,” on A&E. Most Read StoriesSeattle-area rents drop significantly for first time this decade as new apartments sit emptyReport: Seahawks to hire Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator60 years ago: The famous Boeing 707 prototype barrel roll over Lake Washington  VIEWA year-by-year look at NFL offenses under Brian Schottenheimer, expected to be the new OC for the SeahawksRecession won’t revive Seattle’s bygone days | Jon TaltonUnlimited Digital Access $1 for 4 weeks.Some of the issues the “undercover” students came face-to-face with — including the prolific use of social media and the scourge of 24/7 cyber-bullying — “was affirmation of information we already knew,” said Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of Topeka Public Schools“But the level at which some of these issues impact students was, for me, eye-opening.” Producers wanted to spark a conversation about public education but from a fresh perspective, said Greg Henry, executive producer of Lucky 8 TV in New YorkThe series was produced through its subsidiary, Learning Tree Productions. “We wanted to do it in a way that was unique, a little unorthodox, nontraditional, but would also show you the world in a way you’ve never seen it before,” Henry said. Their search for a school that viewers could relate to led them to Kansas. “One of the things that was important to us was that a viewer could see something of their own local high school in the school,” Henry said“So we wanted to find a town that wasn’t too big but wasn’t too small, a high school that wasn’t a massive high school but not too small.” Topeka’s place in public education history made it an attractive setting, too, Henry said, noting Brown vBoard of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which justices ruled that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. Highland Park, with an ethnically and economically diverse student population, fit the bill. Racially, the student body is one-third black, one-third Hispanic and one-third white, Anderson said. Many of the students qualify for free and reduced lunchesSome live in foster care, some are homeless. “Highland Park certainly has a number of students attending who would be impacted by poverty in some fashion,” Anderson said. Months before filming began in January 2017, producers met several times with Anderson, former Highland Park Principal Beryl New, school board members, parents and alumni to talk about the project. Anderson was adamant that the filming not get in the way of the school’s primary mission: educating the kidsShe wanted transparency, tooThe school community knew from the get-go that there would be individuals at the school who were not actual studentsBut few people knew who they were until the end. Henry wanted to make sure the show didn’t exploit the studentsOnly those who agreed to appear in the series are shown, he said. “We didn’t want anyone to feel duped, but we also wanted to say: ‘We’re going to do this togetherWe’ll just be in high school together,'” he said“We didn’t want to hide.” The cameras, Anderson said, were a novelty for the first few daysBut after a while, students just ignored themSome of the students told her that crew members mentored them by giving them information about broadcasting and media work, a “beautiful connection,” she called it. At first, people thought the seven embedded students were actorsBut one was a youth pastor from NashvilleOne young woman from New Mexico had been a teenage momA brother and sister from Georgia moved to the United States through DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The seven embeds moved into apartments and homes around TopekaSome of them rode the bus to school, a couple of them lived close by and walkedOne young woman got braces to look youngerThe production crew worked out of an office in downtown Topeka. “These seven folks willingly put their lives on hold,” Henry said“We took their cell phones and credit cardsAnd basically they … cut themselves off from their lives.” Social media and how high-school students use it quickly became an issueOne of the embedded students, a 22-year-old woman named Lina, heard that she had become the subject of sexual remarks in a group text soon after she arrived. She told the principal, who found that some of the people involved weren’t even students in the district. Participants, a few of whom graduated from high school just five years ago, were surprised by the constant cellphone use, and the pressures and stress that createsThere’s no real escape, one told Business Insider. “One of the things that was sobering was the role of social media in these kids’ lives,” Henry said“For me it is both a blessing and a curse on many levels.” ___ Information from: The Kansas City Star, Lisa Gutierrez Next Story3 suspected militants killed in Bangladesh; 2 forces hurt Previous StoryMedicaid recipients to get work requirements // PROD-1622 Outbrain AB Test // Have to disable outbrain from running at this point based on optimizely test booleans (function() { if ( SEATIMESCO.hasOwnProperty('outbrain') && SEATIMESCO.outbrain.hasOwnProperty('enabled') && SEATIMESCO.outbrain.enabled === false ) { var outbrain = null; outbrain = document.querySelector('.OUTBRAIN[data-widget-id="AR_6"]'); if (outbrain !== null ) { outbrain.parentNode.removeChild(outbrain); } } })(); Contact Newsroom staff list FAQ Contact form About the company Seattle Restaurant Week Newspapers in Education Fund for the Needy Employment Historical Archives Pulitzers Company information Permissions Seattle Times Store Advertise Classifieds Autos Homes Obituary Jobs Media Kit Advertise with Us Subscriber Services Subscribe Activate Account Manage Subscription Place Temporary Hold Report Delivery Issue Make a Payment Print Replica Today’s Front Page Facebook Twitter RSS Feeds Newsletters Mobile Apps Subscribe

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