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Florida May Pay For Burials Of Students Who Died At Dozier School

In a photo from August 2013,  Steven Barnes (l), his son Jason Due-Barnes, wife Tananarive Due, and her father, John Due, gather during a memorial service at the Dozier School for Boys.
Pool/Edmund D. Fountain
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida may pay for burials of students whose remains were once on the grounds of the now shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

House and Senate committees on Tuesday voted unanimously for bills (SB 708 and HB 533) ordering state officials to preserve any records, artifacts or remains that were found on the site of a Panhandle school.

The Marianna reform school was shuttered in 2011. Some former students have accused authorities of physical and sexual abuse.

Researchers from the University of South Florida concluded an investigation that included the exhumation of dozens of bodies from the campus 60 miles west of Tallahassee. They presented their findings to the Florida Cabinet last week.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) and Rep. Ed Narain (D-Tampa), would provide up to $7,500 for funeral and burial expenses for each body exhumed from Dozier. The bills would allocate a total of $1.5 million for the effort.

The measures also call on state officials to begin planning for a memorial. Some former students have asked that the unidentified remains be buried anywhere other than the school site, Marianna or Jackson County.

Others, including the Florida NAACP, think a church on the grounds of the school would serve as a proper mausoleum.

Copyright 2016 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.