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Relatives, Jackson Co. Could Get Say on Dozier Task Force

Pool/Edmund D. Fountain/Tampa Bay Times
In a photo from August 2013, USF anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle walks through the Boot Hill cemetery at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL.

A relative of one of the boys buried at a shuttered reform school and a representative of Jackson County would be part of a task force that establishes a memorial and determines where unclaimed remains should be re-interned, under a proposal backed Thursday by a Senate panel.

The Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved the proposal as part of a measure (SB 708) that would allocate $1.5 million for the reburial of bodies removed from the 1,400-acre site of the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and to establish the memorial.

"This was a tragic and unfortunate situation in Florida's history, and this is a small step in rectifying that," bill sponsor Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, told senators. "The task force will recommend an appropriate memorial and come back to you next year for funding."

Other members of the "Dozier Task Force" would be appointed by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, the Senate president, the House speaker, the president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and the Florida Council of Churches.

The Jackson County site had been put up for sale before University of South Florida researchers performed excavation work because of accounts of violence and bodies left in unmarked graves at the reform school, which operated from 1900 to 2011.

A 168-page report was presented last month to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet.

The report didn't verify any students were killed by Dozier staff, but outlined 51 sets of remains unearthed from an area known as the Boot Hill cemetery.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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