Film examines Frank P. Long health issues
A new documentary film, titled “Sick School,” will examine the allegations of health issues caused by the Brookhaven landfill and other entities surrounding Frank P. Long Intermediate School in Bellport. Since 1997, 32 teachers from the school have been diagnosed with cancer and 11 have died. Students have also reported health issues that parents believe are related to the landfill.
The documentary, produced, filmed and directed by Keif Roberts, a former student at Frank P. Long, takes testimony from community members, parents and students. His former classmate called him earlier this year to conduct some interviews with families who were concerned with the school’s viability, but after collecting more and more footage, he decided it was enough for a full film. The movie will focus on the testimony from those affected, as well as incorporate some of the environmental findings after tests were performed.
Joseph Giani, superintendent of the South Country Central School District, released the following statement in response to the film:
“I have no comment on the documentary, as I have not seen it. I can comment that ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our No. 1 priority. The Board of Education authorized a comprehensive environmental investigation of Frank P. Long School to ensure the school was safe. Testing included: total indoor/outdoor ambient air quality; groundwater well testing; radon testing, and heavy metals testing (air).
“The comprehensive investigation concluded all parameters assessed to be normal for a school building in Suffolk County. Also, in general, the results of the indoor samples were unremarkable and typical of what is found in indoor air. The results were reviewed and supported by the NYS Department of Health.”
All results are available on the district website.
Roberts, who grew up in East Patchogue, said he doesn’t remember dealing with these issues when he attended the school in 1982. He also wanted to use the documentary to explore how the situation affected students, saying that it has added to their stress.
“Being a 10-year-old is hard enough, [besides] having to deal with all these adult problems,” he said.
The film, he explained, would also be used to remember those who were lost and those who are still searching for answers. He acknowledged that there is an obvious debate over the cause of these health issues, but there are some things that should be of concern.
“What isn’t debatable is that something is going on at this school,” Roberts said.
For the filmmaker, this isn’t a moneymaking project. He said it’s really about the personal connection he has to the subject and the passion he found along the way.
“It was just a really, really compelling story,” Roberts said.
There will be a premiere screening of “Sick School” on Saturday, Jan. 5 at the Boys & Girls Club in Bellport. Roberts will also be looking at additional screening opportunities and distribution. In addition to the film, there will be a discussion afterward with parents, experts and activists who have been involved in the fight to close the school.
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