Workers find 27 possible human graves at notorious Florida reform school for boys where children were ‘locked in chains, beaten and sexually abused’
Dept of Environmental Protection workers found disturbed soil while preparing to clean up fuel storage 500 feet adjacent to Boot Hill Cemetery located at the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida
The 27 possible graves are on north side of campus, where African-American boys were buried when the school was segregated could raise the figure of people buried on the campus up to 82
The school’s own records show that more than 50 children were buried on the grounds, while more than 33 other bodies were sent elsewhere to be buried
Initial investigation report from 2009 by the Florida Dept of Law Enforcement found there were 81 school-related deaths of students from 1911 to 1973
A later report in 2012 put the death toll at the school at 98
Governor Ron DeSantis wrote in an April 10 letter to Jackson County Chairman Clint Pate that agencies were looking at ‘best course of action’
Arthur G. Dozier School was closed in June 2011 by the Department of Juvenile Justice after a years-long controversy over widespread physical and sexual abuse
State officials in Florida have for years insisted that 31 boys were interred in the tiny cemetery. However, researchers using high-tech search equipment, forensic scientists have already found evidence of more bodies buried under the site.
The University of South Florida in Tampa said in 2012 they found evidence of at least 50 graves on the school’s property after using ground-penetrating radar and soil samples.
A 2009 investigation report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, found that there were 81 school-related deaths of students from 1911 to 1973.
But another investigation in 2012, by the University of Florida tea, found as many as 98 deaths at the school from 1914-1973 – including two staff members who perished in the 1914 fire. Some of the bodies were thought to have been shipped home to families but many were buried around the area.
Horrors: Former students have spoken out with horror stories of sexual abuse and frequent beatings in this mausoleum-like building dubbed the ‘White House’
Initially it was believed that 96 boys died at the school,and 45 bodies were buried at the site. The current spate of discoveries could double those figures
However, overgrowth on the grounds has hindered researchers from full searches.
Dozier’s own records show that more than 50 children were buried on the grounds, while more than 30 other bodies were sent elsewhere to be buried.
But the school failed to record burial locations for 22 other children who researchers learned died on the site, the Miami Herald reported in 2012.
Six of the children – and two adults – died in the 2014 fire. Several more were killed in an influenza outbreak in the early 1900s.
Some boys died under unknown circumstances, according to relatives.
Governor Ron DeSantis wrote in a Wednesday letter to Jackson County Chairman Clint Pate that ‘during a ground pollution cleanup… anomalies consistent with possible graves have been discovered.’
He said his team ‘is dedicated to collaboratively determining the best course of action’ and shared the DEP, Department of Management Services, the Department of State and the Department of Economic Opportunity would ‘develop a path forward’.
‘Representatives of these agencies will be reaching out to meet with county officials as the first step to understanding and addressing these preliminary findings,’ he stated.
County Administrator Wilanne Daniels said in a statement: ‘We have received the report and are studying the information and findings. We will be working with our State Agency partners to determine the next steps.’
Former students spoke out several years ago with horror stories of sexual abuse and frequent beatings in the White House, at the school.
The school was legend among adolescents for about 100 years in Florida, as the state’s major reform school.
Dozier School was closed in June 2011 by the Department of Juvenile Justice after a years-long controversy over widespread physical and sexual abuse.
Previous investigations and lawsuits have been brought by the ‘White House Boys’ – so called because of the name of the squat, whitewashed building where much of the abuse took place.
A group of former students sued the state in 2010, but their case was dismissed as the statute of limitations had expired. Other students have written books about their experiences.
State Attorney Glenn Hess previously said only one or two employees from the era are known to be alive, and it’s unlikely a trial could prove how a boy died or who was responsible.