7 young adults went undercover as high school students and found today's life as a teenager today is nothing like they remember
- Seven young adults went undercover as students at a Kansas high school for the documentary series "Undercover High."
- The volunteers, aged 21 to 26, made themselves look younger, and one of them even got braces to look the part.
- They discovered issues students were going through that even the administration didn't know about.
You couldn't pay most people to relive their high school experiences.
But that's exactly what seven young adults did on the new A&E documentary series "Undercover High," which premieres on Tuesday. The show follows the seven participants, ages 21 to 26, as they pose as students at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas, during the spring 2017 semester.
The goal of the undercover program is to expose the challenges students and school staff go through, as well as provide administrators with details students would ordinarily never share with them."I always wonder, what is a student not telling us that they will only tell a peer?" Dr. Tiffany Anderson, superintendent of Topeka Public Schools, said in an early episode of the series.
Over the course of the semester, participants were exposed to bullying, sexual harassment, poverty, violence, and drug addiction, among other issues. And in some cases, administrators did not realize the extent of the problems.
"All of those topics are discussed at some level at school, but between students, the insight is just much deeper than what we would have gained otherwise," Anderson told Business Insider.
The participants made an effort to look like convincing high school students. The men shaved to look younger, while one female participant, a 25-year-old named Erin, was even fitted with braces to look the part. They took a full course load and did assignments like the rest of the student population.
As early episodes of the show indicate, cell phone use is rampant among students throughout the school, and social media became a greater source of pressure and stress than they were for participants who graduated as recently as five years ago."The kinds of challenges that I experienced in high school along with my peers are now 24/7 issues because of technology, computers, cell phones, and social media," Shane Feldman, an undercover student who graduated from high school in 2012, told Business Insider. "There's no real escape."
Issues surrounding social media quickly arose for the participants. One female participant, a 22-year-old named Lina, caught wind of a group text in which more than 20 male students were making alarming sexual remarks about her on one of her first days as a student.
"I think my heart kind of stopped for a minute," she said. She later informed the school's principal, who discovered that some of the participants in the group text weren't even students in the school district.
"Undercover High" is an effort between A&E and Lucky 8 productions. The companies previously collaborated on the A&E show "60 Days In," which follows law-abiding citizens who go undercover as inmates in an Atlanta jail. The show is now in its fourth season.
The first episode of "Undercover High" airs Tuesday, January 9 at 10 p.m. EST. It will be followed by an after-show featuring a psychotherapist and an adolescent psychologist who were advisers on the show, as well as a member of a crisis text line and some of the undercover students themselves.
Watch a preview for the series below: