University of South Florida (USF) researchers have exhumed the first human remains buried at the former Florida School for Boys, also known as the Dozier School for Boys, according to a Sept. 1 report from First Coast News .
Using simple hand tools, picks, and shovels, the remains were excavated from a “burial shaft outside of the marked cemetery at the site.”
"[Working] in an area that contains four to six burial shafts, we are working in and around one burial shaft right now to clearly delineate it to get our boundary," said Dr. Christian Wells, with the University of South Florida.
Also uncovered were remnants of coffins buried in the area.
Thirty-one unmarked graves are evident on the former school grounds, identified by 31 simple white metal crosses. Additionally, USF investigators say that an additional 19 grave shafts have been identified, and that a total of 84 male students died at the Florida School for Boys between 1911 and 1973.
The goal for the researchers is to determine how the boys died, and if possible identify the bodies through DNA testing and return the remains to family members.
Former student inmates from the reform school recall the torture and abuse that took place inside the walls of the infamous institution, notably inside a small, white concrete block building that came to be known as the ‘White House.’
"When these boys would come from the White House they were totally bloody I mean they had to be put in the shower and peel their clothes off cause they were stuck to their body," said one of the former students.
John Bonner says he attended the Dozier school when he was 14-years-old. He says he was punched, choked, and beaten in the White House four times.
"I would go as far as to say slavery. This more was a work concentrated camp opposed to teaching young boys how to be reformed. There was no education given to us," said Bonner.
The reform school, run by the state of Fla. in the panhandle town of Marianna from Jan. 1, 1900, to June 30, 2011, came under investigation over the last few decades thanks to former students calling themselves the ‘White House Boys,’ who shared stories of ruthless beatings, sexual abuse, and alleged murders of the male students that resided there.
Today marks the second day in the search for human remains at the school.
Ten families have contacted researchers in hopes of identifying relatives that might be buried at Dozier.
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