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State approves exhumation of graves at Dozier School for Boys

4:32 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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Dozier School for Boys graves

 

Tallahassee, Florida -- University of South Florida researchers got approval from the state to begin exhuming grave sites at the now closed Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet unanimously voted to issue permits to the researchers on Tuesday morning. The vote drew a round of applause from former students of the reform school in the audience.

"This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said in a statement.  "Nothing can bring these boys back, but I'm hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve."

The graves for at least 22 boys who died while at Dozier have never been located.

In recent years, former students have come forward to claim they were victims of abuse at the school which the state closed in 2011.

Last year, using ground penetrating radar and other methods, USF anthropologists and archaeologists found 50 grave sites at Dozier. Previously officials reported only 31 boys were buried on school grounds in a cemetery known as Boot Hill.

In a 200-page report, USF researchers also say 98 deaths occurred at the state-run reform school between 1914 and 1973; which is 17 more than previously stated.

The researchers have also identified discrepancies in records regarding the cause and manner of death reported for several boys.

They noted a high number of boys, 20 in all, also died within the first three months of being sent to the school.

The permit is good for one year, and USF officials tell 10 News they plan to begin work by the end of the month.

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