Researchers in Florida exhumed 55 bodies from the campus of the Dozier School for Boys, a reform school notorious for its brutal treatment of students that closed in 2011. That bodies were buried on campus is no surprise, but the specific numbers are significantly off from what records indicated. A 2009 investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement stated that 31 bodies were buried on school ground—24 fewer than were actually discovered (the FDLE survey relied on incomplete school records).
The University of South Florida research team described the burials as haphazard and unceremonious. Graves were at varying depths in the ground, and modern debris suggested that parts of the property were being used as a dump. Only 13 bodies were found in an area marked off as a cemetery on the school's grounds, and other remains were found under a road, beneath a tree, and in the forest that surrounds the grounds.
The Dozier School has gained a notorious reputation for allegations of abusive treatment by administrators. Many of the deaths at the school have their cause listed as "Unknown," and relatives believe administrators covered up terrible treatment. For example, according to NPR:
They're called the White House Boys — a group of men, many now in their 60s and 70s — who were sent to the Dozier school when they were children. They take the name from a small white building on the school grounds where boys were beaten. Jerry Cooper was sent to the school in 1961. He says guards beat the boys using a leather strap.
One Dozier student told the Los Angeles Times, "he was twice beaten bloody with a leather whip reinforced by a slab of sheet metal. Other boys were beaten so badly that their underwear was pounded into their bare skin. Many were sodomized or forced to perform oral sex on staff members, he said."
Researchers are now searching for families to provide DNA for testing the remains. They also still have yet to excavate parts of the property and expect to find more remains from the school's 111-year history.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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