Florida Cabinet Begins Discussing Future Of Dozier School Grounds

Sep 29, 2015

Dr. Erin Kimmerle, lead University of South Florida researcher, speaking to members of the Florida Cabinet Tuesday.
Credit Florida Channel

The Florida Cabinet discussed the future surrounding the now-closed Dozier School for Boys, a former Panhandle reform school with a troubling past.

Due to the alleged abuse they suffered, there are many boys believed to have died and were buried on the Marianna property.

Over the past couple years, lead University of South Florida researcher Erin Kimmerle and her team have worked to excavate those remains. Now, she’s looking to identify them using DNA from surviving family members.

Kimmerle says for now, they’ve identified six out of 51.

“And, we probably have about 10 who we know who they may be, but we’re trying to confirm it with DNA and so, we’ll hopefully have more,” said Kimmerle, speaking to a group of reporters.

Kimmerle spoke, after the topic was brought up as an item on the Florida Cabinet’s Tuesday agenda by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

In a letter, he said his goal is to get the Cabinet thinking about next steps. Stressing the importance of preservation, Atwater wants the Florida Department of State handling historical resources and records, archives, and state monuments.

“Just how can we help advance those so that the expectation that we are showing the public…these records and resources and archives are going to be available to you, and we’re going to discuss how they’re should be appropriately displayed and available,” said Atwater. “This story is not going to be swept under a rug, and how can we best at this time begin to capture that in partnership where Dr. [Erin] Kimmerle may be. So, if today is premature, I’m fine with that.”

Still, Bondi says before having the Secretary of State Ken Detzner shoulder that burden, they might look into getting help from multiple areas.

“I think we need to bring in DJJ [Department of Juvenile Justice], all agencies, and not just put this on the shoulders of our Secretary of State,” said Bondi.

And, she adds the discussion may be a bit premature, since the work is not finished yet.

That didn’t stop public speakers and Cabinet members themselves offering some suggestions of their own. It includes reviving the discussion to sell the land and putting up a memorial.

Meanwhile, the Florida Cabinet is awaiting a final report by Kimmerle and her team in January.

For more on this story, stay tuned to Friday's Capital Report.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.