Excavations of graves at the Dozier School for Boys, Marianna, started this weekend in Florida. The exhumed bodies are expected to demystify hidden secrets lying in the past of this reform school, which has been accused of being the location of child abuse on a large scale.
Dozier school for boys, closed in 2011, has indeed a very dark past; including beatings, rapes, even killings, according to the White House Boys – a group of survived students – now old men. They attended the school in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s when nobody cared about missing kids from poor families.
According to official state and school records, the history of the Dozier School for Boys looks like a horror film. Approximately 100 children died there from the fire set in 1914 and from the flu in 1918. Around 22 children were reported dead with no identified reasons, and some went missing. According to the White House Boys, they might have been beaten to death, or even shot when trying to escape.
Allegations by the White House Boys might make a horror film look pale in comparison.
The “White House” as they call it – a little building in the forest with white concrete walls – is one of horrifying memories.
Robert Staley, one of the Boys who spent 10 months in the school between 1963-1964, still remembers being beaten on his first day at Dozier in the White House. He survived, but some attendees did not, filling up the line of missing children that were later reportedly buried in the forest.
Graves at Dozier still hold their mysteries. According to reports, 31 children were buried at the small cemetery under white crosses with no names on them. They have been identified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. But they represent a small number of the numerous children that died at the school. In fact, 19 new graves were uncovered last year by a research team from the University of Florida who were using a ground penetrating radar. Later in the surrounding forest they found 30 more graves bringing the total to 49. Since these graves were hidden on the “black side” of the reform school, investigators think black kids were buried there.
Discovery of this hidden graveyard opened up a new chapter in the story. After White House Boys made their allegations in 2008, an investigation led by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement took place, but was closed in 2010 with no proof or refute of the allegations due to the lack of evidence. Nevertheless, this newly found graveyard may provide proof investigators have been searching for.
Excavations lobbied for by the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, started yesterday and will continue through Tuesday, according to Erin Kimmerle, the leading anthropologist of the USF group. From four to six corpses will be dug out to be examined and possibly identified. Living relatives of many of the missing boys have given DNA samples to the forensic team, so if matches are found, bodies might be transferred to the families.
Excavations at the Dozier school graveyard will perhaps continue into the future. Hopefully, they will shed some light on the mysteries surrounding this former reform school.
Another graveyard, probably for white boys, is still believed to be hidden in the dark woods of Marianna.
By Alsu Salakhutdinov