Politicians debate Dozier’s future

Over the past three years, USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle and her team of students worked at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys doing research into records as well as exhuming and identifying human remains. 

While Kimmerle’s fieldwork ended in August and the team is working on its final report to be presented to the state in January, politicians are debating what to do with the state property that bears decades of horror stories, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Located in Marianna in the Florida Panhandle, Dozier was a boarding school for troubled boys during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Within the past decade, 300 men have come forward with stories of beatings, rape, torture and deaths that happened at Dozier. 

The school’s cemetery housed 31 grave markers, but Kimmerle’s team, after ground scans and research into files kept by the school, discovered 51 bodies in 55 graves and estimated over 100 more bodies were also buried on site.

Throughout the research process, evidence and testimonies from survivors and relatives established stories of boys being molested in what was referred to as a “rape dungeon” in one report, and evidence of broken bones and remnants of a buckshot pellet were in one of the remains. 

While the team hopes to identify more of the 51 sets of remains the team found on the property, the question is now what will happen to the land, which belongs to the state. 

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is currently urging Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet to lay down groundwork allowing the display of artifacts and memorializing the victims at Dozier. Atwater also encourages the state to take on the financial responsibility of helping families pay for burials.

“The next phases, involving the preservation of artifacts unearthed, the storage and reinterment of the remains of those identified, decisions regarding appropriate memorials and state funding appropriations will need to be addressed,” Atwater wrote in a letter to other members of the Florida Cabinet. “The issues involving the preservation of historical resources and records, archives and state monuments seem best to be handled by the Department of State or an appropriate oversight body.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Scott and three representatives from his cabinet decided to postpone the official vote on what will happen to the land until next year.