Talks Begin On Future Of Dozier School For Boys In Marianna

September 30, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet began discussions Tuesday on the future of the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a former state-run reform school in Marianna where children are alleged to have been abused and died.

However, no decisions were made as the state officials agreed to await a final report expected in January from University of South Florida researchers, who excavated the 1,400-acre site about 70 miles west of Tallahassee and continue to try identify remains.

State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who requested the Cabinet discussion, said after the meeting that he doesn’t know what the future holds for the property, which Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called the “gateway to Marianna.”

“I don’t know any one of us can answer that question by ourselves,” Atwater said. “I think it’s clear … the reality of economics, you also heard the importance of the spiritual, there are people’s whose lives were lost there. How can it be a site for good in the future? What should be seen and known there? I don’t know.”

Atwater added that a funding request may be made to the state Legislature to help cover internment costs when remains are matched through DNA testing with surviving family members.

Putnam, while noting some of the buildings have issues that range from asbestos to simple years of neglect, suggested the state consider recreational or educational uses for the land north of Interstate 10.

“We all are painfully aware of the dark chapter that Dozier represents in our state’s history,” Putnam said. “This is our opportunity to bring that to a close and start a new chapter, a brighter chapter for the resources on that parcel, for the community of Marianna.”

But Charles Fudge, a former resident of Dozier School for Boys, worried that the history of Dozier may be lost if the site is overly redeveloped.

“Until they find the remaining bodies, they should never let any kind of buildings be put on that property,” Fudge said. “Those boys … you know when we were sent there, we didn’t expect to be beaten, and we certainly didn’t expect to die.”

Dale Landry, president of the NAACP’s Tallahassee branch, said Florida needs to pay costs, even if it’s capped at $5,000 per family, to help pay for transportation and services when remains are turned over to relatives after DNA matches.

“Those remains are remains of Florida’s children and a few men,” Landry said. “We did not handle this ceremoniously from the beginning. We need to ceremoniously handle this from now on.”

Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF, said researchers have completed their field work but left the post-excavation status of Dozier to state officials.

Researchers found the remains of 51 people at the site, of whom six have been identified.

“Of the six identifications we’ve had, four were to direct siblings. So, even though they are quite elderly now, it’s brothers and sisters,” Kimmerle said. “I know they are extremely grateful to all of you (Scott and the Cabinet), as we are for the opportunity to take on this project and bring this history forward.”

The state originally had hoped to sell the Dozier site, a move that was put on hold by the investigation.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said after the meeting that his agency, which includes the Division of Historical Resources, would be able to handle any historical artifacts and records, but so far hasn’t been given any such directions.

“I don’t have any plan,” Detzner said. “If they ask us to be a part of the process, the governor directs me to do that, we will.”

Pictured top: A trench dug in the search for human remains at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Pictured inset: The remains of George Owen Smith have been positively identified.  File photos for, click to enlarge.


6 Responses to “Talks Begin On Future Of Dozier School For Boys In Marianna”

  1. Coseys ex on October 2nd, 2015 3:03 am

    Unfortunately abuse will continue to be around forever. Abuse continues because, as back then and since the start of time, to many people look the other way and allow it to continue.

  2. Dennis on September 30th, 2015 2:50 pm

    The sad part to me is the state fought this to the very end until that independent group proved beyond a doubt it was true. I wouldn’t want to own the land because of the liabilities. If they covered up this, no telling what else(pollution, etc) is buried out there.

  3. ProudArmyParent on September 30th, 2015 2:33 pm

    So KiKi, you want today’s Floridians to pay for past horrors against these poor boys? Why punish me or any others who live in the State of Florida today for something they had nothing to do with. I agree with 429SCJ, erect a monument this way there is accountability and a rememberance.

  4. casey vititoe on September 30th, 2015 8:32 am

    My grandpa was at this place… he doesn’t like to talk about it at all the things I have gotten out of him are horrible that anyone could be treated like that.

  5. Kiki on September 30th, 2015 7:10 am

    This goes to prove that abuse has been around forever! Authority always got away with it! I hope that the living is held accountable for their actions. Parents sent their sons there thinking it would help……not to be killed! I also hope that the families of those boys, murdered and abused, are able to get closure and peace, as well as the ones that survived from this horrible chapter in their life! I also hope that the state pays for supporting such an evil place and hiring the evil people that did this! Back then, people knew things but turned their heads did nothing. You cannot convince me that this abuse was not known about by someone in a position of authority outside of the school!

  6. 429SCJ on September 30th, 2015 6:22 am

    The state failed to maintain oversight over these “school employees”, who were on the state payrolls.

    The blood of these doomed boys cries up from the ground for justice. The state should erect a monument to these innocent victims of sadistic authority.

    Let us never forget, so that these inhumanities never be allowed to repeat.

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