In the early 1900’s up until 2011 families have been sending their sons to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida. One might assume that this school was like any reform school, however, recently a dark past of the Dozier school has surfaced suggesting that education was not the only thing occurring at the school.
What used to be thought of as myths circulated by the students that attended this school are now realities, like students subjected to beatings, torture, sexual abuse, and disappearance by school administration.
It was not until recently when a research team from the University of South Florida discovered that there were 19 bodies buried on the grounds of the former school bringing the total graves to 49. Some locals make the claim that these are the bodies of African Americans disposed of by the Ku Klux Klan during the time where racial segregation was running ramped.
However, former students of the Dozier school are stepping up and telling the harrowing story of what they faced while attending the school.
A Former student from 1963-1964, Robert Straley, in an interview with CNN recalled being sent to the “white house” which was what the students referred to where the beatings and torture occurred. Straley offers first-hand accounts of the beatings he faced. For those that did not survive the brutal torture it is thought that they were buried on the grounds of the school.
Families would come to visit their child only to be told upon arrival that their child had died. One family recollected how they recieved notification that their son had run away from the school…never to be seen again. His sister now in her 80’s says that it was no disappearence. Friends of her brother attending the school recall last seeing him running on the football field away from administration as they fired a shot gone targeting him. As the investigation ensues and the bodies are exhumed it is being argued whether or not it is even worth it to investigate. There is no guarantee that DNA from the exhumed bodies will be able to be matched to existing family members.
The lack of evidence available is not helping the case either. It is also necessary to have witnesses that can identify the perpetrator and the victims if criminal charges were to be filed, and because this occurred between the 1930’s and the 1940’s it is highly unlikely a case will be built.
With that being said I still do not feel that exhuming the bodies of these victims is pointless. Yes, you may not be able to formulate a case to seek justice, but on the flip side there is an opportunity here for families to get closure. Seeking closure is important to those that never knew what became of their loved one.
This is an interesting story because during the 40’s and 50’s being struck by a teacher was not all that uncommon. I’m sure we are all familiar with the stories of our grandparents being struck with a ruler by a stern nun.
It is the brutality of these actions that occurred that make this incident unique. We shudder at the violence within our schools today without much consideration about the violence that plagued schools in the past.
Knowing how I feel today after watching the news and seeing the footage of the Sandy Hook massacre it doesn’t make sense to me why we wouldn’t exhume the bodies and try to get to the bottom of this decades old mystery.
Whether or not a court case can be established is not what’s important here. What the main focus should be is reuniting the deceased with their families, giving them and answers and allowing these unidentified souls to have a final resting place amongst those that loved them and lost them so long ago.