Governor Backs Dozier School For Boys Justice Bill

March 31, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday signed a bill addressing what one lawmaker described as a “dark chapter” in Florida history at a now-shuttered reform school.

The measure (SB 708), one of 14 bills Scott signed into law Wednesday, will allocate money for the reburial of remains removed from the 1,400-acre site of the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. The bill also establishes plans for a memorial at the reform school, which operated from 1900 to 2011 in the Jackson County community of Marianna.

“This law finally ends a tragic chapter in Florida’s history,” Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in a prepared statement. “It buries the dead with dignity and establishes a permanent reminder so that the atrocities the children endured at Dozier are neither forgotten nor repeated.”

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, said the legislative effort is a way to say “we’re sorry.”

“It’s a dark chapter in Florida’s history,” Williams said. “We sent young men there to be reformed. It was a reform school. We didn’t send young men there to die.”

A 168-page report by University of South Florida researchers was presented to Scott and the Cabinet in January on excavations at the site. The report didn’t verify any students were killed by Dozier staff, but outlined 51 sets of remains unearthed from an area known as the Boot Hill Burial Ground.

“There were young men, black and white, went in thinking they were going to be reformed and come back home, and they never made it out,” Williams said.

The law provides up to $7,500 per family for funeral, reburial and grave-marker costs and calls for the creation of a task force that would make recommendations about an appropriate memorial for the site and how to rebury remains that are unidentified or unclaimed.

Rep. Ed Narain, a Tampa Democrat who sponsored the House version of the bill, said in a prepared statement the law is intended to provide “a measure of justice.”

“These boys and these families should not be forgotten, nor should they be further victimized,” Narain said. “This bill, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, represents the right thing to do and will also serve as an ongoing reminder that such injustice should never happen again.”

Three lawmakers — Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, and Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven — voted against the proposal. Tobia had sought to reduce the per-family payment to $2,000.

The Dozier funding drew support from former Gov. Bob Martinez and members of the state Cabinet.

During the January Cabinet meeting, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam offered apologies to the generations of boys who suffered hardships at the reform school while saying a new use is needed for the land, whether recreational, educational or even for veterans’ services.

“Those who spent time at Dozier and the loved ones of those who died at Dozier have for far too long had their history cloaked in secrecy,” Putnam said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida


11 Responses to “Governor Backs Dozier School For Boys Justice Bill”

  1. Kenneth Manny on April 12th, 2017 12:00 pm

    I just heard about this from a friend at work in Orlando and had to take a look! I can’t begin to thank the brace young men that came out with their stories. In the late 60’s I was given 1- year till I turned 16. A floodgate of emotions just was released from deep inside me that I had suppressed for decades coarse out! I now can come to grips with why I’ve lived with so much anger and fears for so long. I’m 64 and now can see why my life has been a roller coaster of emotions and anger over not getting help to why I’m the way I am! Thanks for bringing this to light and I hope with some help talking with someone about what I went through as a 15 year old kid. I was sent from Miami cause I’d run away from wherever they sent me down there! I’m seeking help though my EAP from work and only pray more people come forward with their stories! I’ve been happily married with same Wife since we married in 85! I can now face what made me become the man I am. And owe it to my best friend and soulmate for always standing by me! Will get over this I hope. Just want the world to know what really went on there. It costs me my teen years and will move forward with my life knowing I’m not crazy or making this up! Thanks from the bottom of my heart! We can’t be silent no more! GOD BLESS all of your efforts to get the TRUTH out!

  2. Duke of Wawbeek on April 4th, 2016 7:55 am

    When WWII ended, the SS relocated to Marianna Florida.

    This is like something out of a Nazi concentration camp, torture and forced slave labor.

    It would be interesting to know who pocked the profits from the slave labor leasing, that occurred at Dozier. Those state officials, they simply looked the other way and pocketed the money.

  3. Northof9mi on April 2nd, 2016 4:47 pm

    For any and everyone posting, buy and read The Whitehouse Boys. Somethings can be made up, but the truth is there to read. Educate yourselves about Florida Industrial School for Boys, later Dozier School.
    While you’re looking into this, check out the Convict Lease System which was a part of FIS as well as a large portion of penal labor camps working lumber and sawmill operations in NW Florida.

  4. Bill Price on April 2nd, 2016 10:07 am

    I want to commend each and every contributor of comments to this atrocity.
    I am a former child of horror that survived the notorious school and for what its worth , everything you have read and heard is true. I was beaten and tortured a few times there.
    At present I am the vice president of The Official White House Boys and have fought for what you have read about since 2008 and hope to continue as long as the lord allows
    I was not blessed with the best of childhoods, I held my brother while he died at the age of 7 when he was playing with a gun. I spent 2 years after that in an orphanage until my mother was able to care for me and my sister again. We were relocated after that from Virginia to Florida. By the time I was 13 years old I had 4 stepfathers and each one was abusive to my sister and myself. I ran away from home and I believe any child at my age and situation would have done the same. I was sent to Marianna because I ran away to escape abuse and three days after I arrived there I was taken to the White House and beaten worse than what I received at home, and found out that evil lives everywhere.
    For over 50 years I kept this to myself and lived with the pain and what I thought to be shame. I’ve since realized that what I went through was not my fault and I no longer have to be ashamed or afraid to live with what happened. There were some bad people at that school and a lot of children suffered from the abuse whether physical, psychological or sexual. Sadly when you concentrate that many young boys in one area it tends to draw pedophiles, who lived and worked at the school. The only saving grace is that most all of these people have died, but it is possible that they have left a legacy and some tend to carry on from what they have been taught as children. It is a proven fact that many of the children abused at the school took what they learned into their lives and families. They learned abuse as a child and it caused them to go through numerous marriages and have children that won’t talk to them or associate with them in any way. A totally vicious cycle. That my friends is the true definition of PTSD.
    There is so much that happened there and if anything bothers you and you would like questions answered. Just ask.

  5. Judy Weese on April 1st, 2016 7:59 am

    The State knew what what going on from the time it was opened!! They did nothing but continue to let it go and hire more sicko’s!!! We have had all these bodies–empty coffin with boards for weight in it-found when dug up and opened, and Florida just says it should have never happened!!! But they have been just sweeping it under the rug, trying to cover up what they continued to allow to happen. These men, have suffered their entire lives for the time spent here. Please keep in mind–some did nothing to get there–but be orphans–and they had no place to send them. So they put them there. They used these men for slaves–sex-and just for kicks to beat!!! It is all in the records-including the 5 year old boy, that they let go to a house for a house boy–they brought him back a few days later–DEAD!!! These men are still suffering and have affected their entire lives!!! So easy to just say forget about it!!! Believe me–they wish they could!!!!
    Then you still got Marianna saying nothing happened!!! It happened–and enought proof has established that fact!!! That is becasue it was their families who worked there and run the place!!! Been proof going on ( recorded proof) newspapers and etc.–as far back as 1900 when it opened, but it never stopped!!! Remember–you still have to meet your Maker –so go on with your lies!!! Eternity is a long time to burn in HELL!!

  6. BigSister on April 1st, 2016 6:01 am

    @molino jim……the why he was there (at only 14yrs old) doesn’t, and the after doesn’t matter. All of that is irrelevant. The point is that a child was abused, PERIOD! The abuse these boys sustained was, UNCALLED FOR, ILLEGAL, UNACCEPTABLE, AND INEXCUSABLE!!! These people that sent these boys there KNEW that this place kept NO PAPER RECORDS! As Jeff Foxworthy would say, “There’s your sign!” The people in authority KNEW this as well. No one deserves the treatment that these boys received. Back in those days, authority was the ultimate trust. no one could speak against it! These boys were supposed to come out better human beings but, if they survived it, they came out even more troubled.

  7. Melodies4us on March 31st, 2016 9:33 pm

    I agree with Big Sister. All of the students who attended deserve compensation, and should seek a class action law suit against the state. These abuses and murders did not only last for a decade or two. The abuse passed on from generation to generation, almost as if Satan himself was in charge. You would think that after the bad administrators left or retired that would have been the end of the torture, but it wasn’t. Somehow, the new people in charge would continue mistreating these poor children.

  8. anne on March 31st, 2016 9:47 am

    Breathtaking to see how much Mr. Tobia cares. $2000.00 to handle the remains of an abused child? Big Sister, please tell your brother this happened to many children across this country. My nephew couldn’t live with the memories of a home in MI. This story touches my heart. I hope the families are consulted about the type of memorial to be constructed.

  9. molino jim on March 31st, 2016 9:25 am

    Two questions for “BigSister”. Why was he at Dozier and has he stayed out of trouble since being there?

  10. 429SCJ on March 31st, 2016 8:19 am

    No efforts should be spared in tracking down the guards and administration, responsible for this holocaust against young American citizens.

    Even if some of the guilty are deceased, their crimes and identities should be made public knowledge.

    Let the dead find justice and dignity, let not their cries and screams go unheeded.

    Prosecute the guilty.

  11. BigSister on March 31st, 2016 6:13 am

    Apologies aren’t enough! I have a brother whom was sent there by Judge Green for 7 months in mid 80’s. My brother sustained abuse fby the hands of the ones in authority at this so-called “school”. I FULLY believe that the state politicians KNEW the way this school ran, and how they treated these kids! Easy for them to order these troubled boys to this school and let it be done cause they were not there to be part of the schools twisted ways. Every month that my brother was there my dad got a call from he school that they needed money for “medical”. He had a busted mouth, a broken arm, etc. my brother is in his late 40’s now and, until this past month, he NEVER SPOKE about what went on at that school!! Just recently, when I asked, did start speaking of it. He said that it was horrififc and it took him to a dark place when he thought of it. He recognized “the one armed man” immediately, and it horrified him to see “the white house” again even in video! So, the state should be responsible for ALL BOYS, deceased AND living! The deceased dont have to live that horror every day any longer!