Two Florida lawmakers hope to keep the conversation going to help families searching for answers about their loved ones, buried on the now-closed Dozier School for Boys.
About a month ago, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet met to discuss what should be done with Dozier moving forward.
The bodies of many boys are believed to buried on the Panhandle property who died from alleged abused. And, already an excavation team has found 51 remains in the Boot Hill cemetery, located on the Dozier site in Marianna.
Six sets of remains have now been identified. Speaking before the Cabinet, Tallahassee NAACP head Dale Landry says state officials need to remember those families whose loved ones’ remains have been found.
“Right now, we do have some families that have called for their bodies to be given to them. Many of them had to go out and raise money to help bury those remains. I know that was never your intent. Florida did that to those children. Florida needs to pay for their reinternment. Hopefully, until we can legislate something, we can move some funds aside,” said Landry, at the time.
Two lawmakers have already started that legislative process: Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner and Rep. Ed Narain (D-Tampa), the chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.
“We decided to do that,” said Narain. “She [Joyner] brought it to my attention as something we should do to bring closure to the families.”
While the House and Senate bills differ in the amount of payment, both measures direct the Florida Department of State to give thousands of dollars to the families toward reburial efforts and sets aside $1.5 million in the upcoming budget to do that.
And, Narain says it’s the right thing to do.
“At the end of the day, there were a lot of things that were said about these boys that went missing, that they ran away,” he added. “And, to find out many years later that these individuals could have been killed and didn’t receive a proper burial is not only unfortunate, but a big time injustice.”
The bills also direct the Florida Department of State to preserve historical records and artifacts—something state officials of the Florida Cabinet at the direction of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater were already discussing. And, Narain says he doesn’t see any difficulty getting anyone from both sides of the legislative aisle as well as the executive branch to get on board. Meanwhile, a final report on Dozier is due in January.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.