St. George: PBS special gave inaccurate portrayal
BATON ROUGE - St. George supporters say a PBS Frontline documentary that aired Tuesday night titled "Separate and Unequal" is told in a way that "inaccurately portrays this movement."
The documentary, filmed over several months, focuses on how years of school busing has affected the school system, causing white students to leave, and suggests segregation is making a comeback sixty years after the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional.
The documentary includes various St. George events and interviews from St. George supporters. The organization's spokesperson, Lionel Rainey, along with Chairman of the St. George movement Norman Browning are featured heavily in the production. Also, prominent political figures, educators, and opponents of St. George, including Belinda Davis, were interviewed.
"It continually focuses on the desegregation lawsuit that lasted for decades in this parish," read a statement on the City of St. George website. "We feel it is unfortunate Frontline has chosen to do so, as its focus insures an inaccurate portrayal of the struggle taking place in southern East Baton Rouge Parish."
The documentary also highlights a mother of four who has three children in middle school. All her children attend different public schools. Nikki Dangerfield says her kids travel long distances to schools in better-performing districts.
"As a whole, the public school system has done right by my family," Dangerfield said in the TV show.
State Sen. Bodi White has led the charge for St. George incorporation and was also interviewed for the broadcast.
"They want better," he said, speaking about the people who have signed the petition.
White says the producers tried to show balance, but believes there was a racial undertone throughout the piece.
"You're talking about metropolitan areas where the middle class folks are really dissatisfied with the quality of education their kids are getting and it's not just white. It's black also," he said.
Since the documentary was produced, there have been arguments over the annexation of land into the City of Baton Rouge and out of the planned St. George city limits, a pending lawsuit and an opinion given by the Attorney General's office regarding St. George maps.
Monday, organizers revealed they have collected 17,076 signatures. They need 18,000 by July 23rd to get the petition on the November ballot.
A rebroadcast is planned for Friday and is also available to view online.