Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys

Deadlines Loom For Dozier Memorials, BP Settlement Funds

May 29, 2017
USF DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY

Gov. Rick Scott has until next week to decide on a proposal to create memorials for the victims of the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. He also has one week to act on a measure that will send BP oil-spill settlement money to Northwest Florida counties hard hit by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Dozier Memorial Bill Goes To Gov. Scott

May 19, 2017
Michael Spooneybarger Reuters/Landov

A bill authorizing the creation of memorials for the victims of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday.

Last week, the Florida House formally apologized to the former wards of two now-closed reform schools for the abuse they say they suffered. Now, the Florida Senate is now doing the same.

Senate Apologizes For Dozier Abuse

Apr 27, 2017
Michael Spooneybarger Reuters/Landov

With one senator pointing Wednesday to "violations of fundamental human decency," the Florida Legislature has formally apologized for the mistreatment of juveniles held at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Michael Spooneybarger Reuters/Landov

The Florida House is formally apologizing for decades of abuse at a reform school and to the families of four young black men accused of raping a white woman 68 years ago in what's now seen as a case of racial injustice.

The House unanimously passed two resolutions Tuesday acknowledging the state's misdeeds involving the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and the group known as the "Groveland Four."

Final recommendations on a memorial for the unclaimed remains uncovered on the Dozier School for Boy grounds are now heading to the Florida Legislature. But, during the final meeting of the panel tasked with making those suggestions, tensions were pretty high.

Governor Gives Backing To Dozier ‘Justice’ Bill

Mar 31, 2016
USF DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY

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.

Lawmakers Hope Dozier Bill Will Help Healing

Mar 9, 2016

A measure intended to help heal a community and people who suffered at a former reform school where the remains of 51 boys have been unearthed is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.

The Florida Senate has passed a bill allowing the state to provide financial help to the families who want to rebury the remains of their loved ones, found on the Panhandle property of the former Dozier School for Boys. Its House counterpart is also heading to the floor.

 Florida would pay to rebury students whose remains were once interred on the grounds of a now shuttered reform school, under a bill passed by the Senate.

Florida's Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was a horror tale come to life.

"There's just too many stories," Roger Kiser, who was at the school in the 1950s, told NPR in 2012. "I know of one [boy] that I personally saw die in the bathtub that had been beaten half to death. I thought he'd been mauled by the dogs because I thought he had ran. I never did find out the true story on that. There was the boy I saw who was dead who came out of the dryer. They put him in one of those large dryers."

The Dozier School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle town of Marianna closed in 2011, after allegations by former inmates of decades of torture and abuse.

University of South Florida researchers have been working for years to identify dozens of remains found in unmarked graves on the site, and they've just released their final report.

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 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.

In June of 2013, Robert Stephens of Tampa received a phone call from his sister. She told him that an uncle they had never met had died at the Dozier School for Boys in 1937 under mysterious circumstances.

She added that University of South Florida researchers wanted Stephens to submit a DNA sample to see if they could identify his 15-year-old uncle as one of the bodies believed to be buried in an unmarked graveyard on the now closed reform school’s grounds.

KATY HENNIG / USF News

Researchers say they have positively identified the remains of a 15-year-old boy who died at a Florida reform school where guards were accused of brutality throughout its troubled history.

University of South Florida anthropologist Erin Kimmerle said Tuesday the remains of Robert Stephens, who died in 1937, were positively identified. According to his death certificate, the teen was stabbed to death. His DNA was matched with his nephew.

Anthropologists found the remains of 51 people buried at the school.

UPDATE 3/18/15 10:45 a.m.

Updated headline to indicate the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will conduct "an inquiry" and not "an investigation" into USF's findings.

In an email sent to WUSF 89.7 News Wednesday morning, FDLE Communications Director Gretl Plessinger said, "We are conducting a preliminary inquiry to assess any new information from the January USF report.  If there is criminal predicate, we will open an investigation."

ORIGINAL POST 3/17/15 5 p.m.

With a single sentence, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicated it will look into what investigators from the University of South Florida have turned up at the Dozier School for Boys in the Panhandle town of Marianna.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is asking the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to evaluate new findings in the history of students at the former Arthur G. Dozier school for boys.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Putnam — who is one of three members of the Florida Cabinet — cited a recent report by researchers at the University of South Florida.

For years, claims of abuse, beatings, rapes and murder of students by staff have come from those who survived the Dozier School for Boys,  the now-closed state-run reform school in the Florida Panhandle.

Many families are still wondering what happened to their loved ones, and some are getting answers as researchers from the University of South Florida identify remains that have been exhumed from the grounds of Dozier.

Lucielle Salomon / WUSF 89.7 News

In 1934, 13-year-old Thomas Varnadoe and his brother, Hubert, were sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys for allegedly stealing a typewriter.

In 1944, 12-year-old Earl Wilson went to the reform school in the panhandle town of Marianna, Florida, for allegedly riding in a car a friend stole.

Neither Thomas nor Earl ever returned home -- until now. Science and perseverance are finally giving their families some peace.

University of South Florida researchers will announce Thursday afternoon that they've determined the identities of two more sets of remains buried on the grounds of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

The Ledger and a release from Senator Bill Nelson's office say that one is Thomas Varnadoe, 13, who died in 1934, a month after arriving at Dozier.

Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Cabinet voted Tuesday to allow University of South Florida researchers to exhume bodies at the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The secretary of state had turned down the request, but Attorney General Pam Bondi took up the cause. The research team wants to find out whose bodies are buried at the old reform school, allegedly the site of widespread beatings.