USF Findings Add to Intrigue At Dozier Reform School

A university report finds there were more graves and deaths at the controversial reform school than reported by the state in 2009.

The questions surrounding Florida’s oldest reform school for boys continue.

A report released today by the University of South Florida shows there were more graves and deaths at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna than found by a 2009 state investigation.

After months of investigation, a team of USF researchers has found there are at least 50 grave shafts at the schools Boot Hill Cemetery — 19 more than had been officially reported previously.

"We found nearly twice as many burials as were thought to exist," Assistant USF anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle said in a prepared statement, "but many of them had been lost in the woods under brush and trees."

The panhandle reform school, which opened in 1900 and closed in 2011, has gained a good deal of notoriety over the years. Suspicious deaths have been alleged and reports of abuse of boys began to surface as early as 1901, according to the USF report.

A 2009 report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement stated there were 81 deaths at the school between 1911 and 1973, with 31 of those boys being buried on site. But USF has found there have been at least 98 deaths total and a minimum of 50 boys buried on site.

“USF researchers concluded in their report that additional research and preservation of the site are needed to recognize the historical significance of human and civil rights issues in Florida in the area of juvenile justice and the rights of families to have accountability and transparency as important aspects of restorative justice,” the university added in a statement.

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