Unspeakable Crimes Thanks To Archaeology, We Finally Know What Really Happened At The Florida School For Boys  

Rachel Souerbry
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The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, also known as the Florida School for Boys, was located in Marianna, FL. The reform school for troubled men, from toddlers to 21-year-olds, was open from 1900 to 2011, and had a reputation for horrific abuse. The many allegations paint a vivid picture of the school, but until 2012, there was no physical proof behind any of the claims. After the closure of the property, forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle decided to take on the challenge of excavating the grounds of the school.

A grim reminder of the past, the school's grounds contained at least one known graveyard, with the state of Florida acknowledging the existence of 31 young men buried there. Kimmerle spent four years deciphering the identities of the victims.  She analyzed the remains she and her team found, and finally began to piece together a clearer picture. Surprisingly, there were more than 31 bodies found, and nearly all of them were subjected to neglect and abuse. Kimmerle has since delivered her findings from the dig to the public, in hopes it would shed some light on what happened at the Florida School for Boys.

There Were More Bodies Than The State Originally Claimed


There Were More Bodies Than Th... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Thanks To Archaeology, We Finally Know What Really Happened At The Florida School For Boys
Photo: USF/Final Dozier Summary 2016/Public Domain

The state of Florida originally claimed 31 bodies were buried at the Dozier School. The makeshift graveyard didn't have an official layout and the graves were marked by simple pipe crosses without names, but it was assumed each cross represented a body. However, as the archaeological dig went on, a total of 55 sets of remains were found. Many of the remains were located on the edges of the cemeteries, without even a simple cross to mark them. 

There Were Seven DNA Matches And Fourteen Presumptive Matches


There Were Seven DNA Matches A... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Thanks To Archaeology, We Finally Know What Really Happened At The Florida School For Boys
Photo: USF/Final Dozier Summary 2016/Public Domain

When the archaeology team began uncovering bodies at the Boot Hill cemetery, they located 51 individual sets of remains. Unfortunately, they only had a small amount of information to go on when it came to figuring out the identities of the victims. Through DNA testing, they were able to make seven matches using each victim's surviving family members. Another 14 "presumptive matches" were made, which implies archaeologists are reasonably certain of who the boys are, based on historical records and physical information.

Three Times As Many Black Boys Died At The School Than White Boys


Three Times As Many Black Boys... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Thanks To Archaeology, We Finally Know What Really Happened At The Florida School For Boys
Photo: USF/Final Dozier Summary 2016/Public Domain

In the early days of the Florida School for Boys, segregation was still very much a reality. Records show up to three times as many blacks boys were sent to the detention center as white boys, and they died there at about the same rate. The graveyards, like the facilities themselves, were segregated. Many of the deceased black students are also believed to be the occupants of the handful of unmarked graves.

They Were Able To Create Facial Reconstructions For Two Boys


They Were Able To Create Facia... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Thanks To Archaeology, We Finally Know What Really Happened At The Florida School For Boys
Photo: USF/Final Dozier Summary 2016/Public Domain

During the dig, the team was able to put together facial reconstructions for two of the sets of remains they found. The bone fragments were glued together, and a computer program formulated the details of the eyes, mouth, and other facial features. The goal had originally been to put faces to each set, but most of the skulls were in pieces that were too small to put back together.