I've been following the story of the state-run Florida School for Boys, for years now. It's such a disgusting chapter in Florida's history. The reform school operated from 1900 to 2011. It was the largest juvenile detention center in America. It was also a house of horrors for hundreds if not thousands of young boys who had the misfortune of being enrolled there. Throughout the years the institution's staff were frequently accused of ritual abuse, beatings, rape, torture, and even murder. State authorities finally closed the school down in 2011.
It's now for sale.
However, selling it may be hard, considering yesterday the University of South Florida announced they had exhumed the remains of 55 young boys. That's 24 more dead boys than the state of Florida had previously thought to be buried.
The school was established in Marianna, a small Panhandle town, with a pretty dark past. It was the site of an insignificant Civil War battle, as well as the final resting place of former slave-owning, Governor John Milton (who committed suicide after the War). It's also the site of the horrific torture and lynching of Claude Neal, an African-American accused of rape and murder. Today, only 9,000 people live in Marianna, who's motto is "City of Southern Charm."
Tampa Bay News reports that the items anthropologists have found are "belt buckles, zippers, coffin hardware, buttons, bottles of embalming fluid and a marble in a boy's pocket." Fucking tragic. What's more, where the bodies were exhumed they've also found modern debris, which indicates that parts of the cemetery were recently used as a trash dump. Remains have been discovered "under a road, under a tree and spread throughout surrounding forest."
Erin Kimmerle is the lead forensic anthropologist, directing the team. She's called the project "a humanitarian effort." It really is.
They hope DNA from the families of those known to have died at the school will also shed light on the identities of the remains. USF and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office have collected DNA from about a dozen families and are trying to track down more relatives of the dead.
The school has been called many names, the Florida Industrial School for Boys, the Florida School for Boys and the Dozier School for Boys. But, regardless of what it called itself, it was known as a school of horrors for the many children who suffered within its walls for over a century.
Over the years, kids were locked in irons, beaten with a leather strap in a building called the White House, locked in isolation for as long as three weeks and hog-tied. In October 2008, five former wards went public with stories of extreme physical and sexual abuse at the hands of guards...More than 500 men have come forward with similar stories of being abused by staff at the school.
Over the years the accusations included secret rape rooms, with victims as young as 9 years old; a boy killed after being put in a running laundry machine as punishment; boys hung upside down for hours at a time. It was found that much of the staff had only received minimal training. Not that training would stop sadists from being sadists. Hundreds of families are still seeking justice and answers. Hopefully the efforts of the University of South Florida will finally provide them.
UPDATE: Thanks jt_pearland146 for the video link!