Florida refuses exhumation of bodies at reform school where African-American boys are buried
By Your Black World
On Monday (July 15, 2013) the state of Florida denied the University of South Florida’s request to exhume the bodies of dead boys from the cemetery at the Dozier School for Boys, where troubled boys were beaten and abused over a span of decades.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner released a statement saying he understood the push for the exhumations, but that “the Department of State does not have the statutory authority” to fulfill the request.
“The [Bureau of Archeological Research’s] existing statutory authority to grant archaeological research permits is restricted to the recovery of objects of historical or archaeological value, not human re-mains, absent a danger to the grave site that actually threatens the loss or damage of those remains,” he wrote.
Many of the graves have been difficult to locate thanks to the shoddy upkeep at the school, which is partly what led to incorrect grave markings.
Some who were abused at the school, such as Jerry Cooper of Cape Coral, say it’s time to get a full account of how many boys lost their lives at the school.
“When you’ve got graves out-side of the marked cemetery and you have found more than the FDLE claims that are buried in that graveyard, that’s all the more reason to keep going,” he said.
Families of the boys who died at the brutal reform school, which opened in 1900 and closed in 2011, have been fighting to have their relative’s bodies moved from school grounds to family plots.
“They’re liars,” said Dale Landry, president of the NAACP’s Tallahassee branch, of state officials. “Look at the insensitivity.”
Landry said Detzner originally approved of the excavation, saying that if the school didn’t do it, the state might have to do it.
“At this point, it’s starting to look like a classic run around,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. “This is state-owned land, it’s the state’s responsibility and the state of Florida needs to do the right thing and not pass the buck.”
African-American children at the school were three times more likely to be buried in an unspecified location than the white boys, according to a report. Both white boys and Black boys were housed at the reform school.