The bodies of boys who died at the Dozier School for Boys are finally finding a resting place and Florida will apologize for widespread abuses at the now-defunct reform school.
On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill into law creating a memorial site for the bodies of the boys who died at the now-defunct reform school.
For the boys of the Dozier School, the apology and the Memorial have been a long time coming.
After decades of waiting, the Dozier Boys will finally have closure on one of the most horrific chapters in Florida history.
The new law will allow for the care, reinterment and memorialization for the bodies of boys found at the Dozier School.
The law will also establish a memorial at the Capitol Complex in Leon County and at the site of the school in Jackson County. The law also will preserve the areas known as the Boot Hill Cemetery where many boys were buried and the White House, where many boys were physically, mentally and sometimes sexually abused.
Years later, the Florida Legislature has finally made good on its promise to make things right for the victims.
"Today's signing, coupled with an official apology led by the House earlier this year, will hopefully bring some closure and healing to all those affected directly or indirectly by the atrocities that occurred at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys," said House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Former boys at the school told Sunshine State News of children they knew who were flogged mercilessly, or kept in solitary confinement at Pierce Hall for months at a time, even though these practices were supposed to have ceased by the time they arrived on campus.
They told of one cottage father (as dorm supervisors were called) who would enter their cottage at night, set up a small desk at the bathroom entrance, and insist on watching the boys expose their nudity while they used the toilet.
Opened in 1900, the school was the country's largest reform institution. It closed in 2011.
In 2012, a group of anthropologists led by the University of South Florida began an excavation process on the school grounds, uncovering over 50 bodies at the school in unmarked graves. The USF report found a total of 100 deaths from 1900 to 1973. Two staff deaths were included in the total.
Last year, the Florida Legislature designated a task force to determine what, exactly, Florida should do with the bodies and what type of memorial should be created to remember the victims.
The issue of figuring out where to put the bodies has been a contentious one. Former attendees of the school disputed assertions the bodies should be buried at Dozier, since some believed it would tarnish their memories.
Ultimately, the state legislature agreed to move some of the bodies to Marianna and set up two memorials -- one in Tallahassee and one in Marianna.