Anthropologists from the University of South Florida began exhuming the bodies of 4-6 boys buried in a “boot hill” at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fl. school. The work will continue until Tuesday and resume at a later date stated Dr.Erin Kimmerle, who is leading the project, who added that the bodies would be brought to Tampa to be studied. In addition, DNA samples obtained from the bodies will be transported to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. The hope is to be able to give closure to families who lost loved ones at the infamous reform school during its 111-year history.
The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys (aka The Florida School for boys) was a reform school operated by the state of Florida January 1, 1900, to June 30, 2011, and was, at one time, the largest facility of its kind in the country. A second campus was opened in the town of Okeechobee in 1955. During that time the institution gained a reputation for abuse, beatings, rapes, torture, and even murder of students by staff.
Former inmates of the school during the 1950’s and 1960’s have given detailed accounts of beatings and violent deaths including stabbings that occurred there and then were “covered-up” in secret burials. In fact, a group of survivors, known as the White House Boys, (named for a concrete detention building where alleged tortures and beatings took place),” appealed to State Law Enforcement officials to investigate the graves back in 2008.
One of these men testified that he was “ punished in the white house eleven times, receiving a total of over 250 lashes,” while others claim that they had been whipped intil they became unconscious, and that the punishments were “made harsher for boys that cried.
The White House Boys complaint case however was closed two years later when no substantial evidence could be obtained proving the boys had died at the hands of the school’s staff. It was then that the University of Florida stepped in, working for months to get permission from Governor Rick Scott to begin the excavations.