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Exhuming Bodies At Dozier To Start Soon Now That USF Has State Approval

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Governor Rick Scott and rest of the Florida Cabinet have given a group of researchers’ permission to dig up the bodies buried on the grounds of the infamous Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Supporters, who say that will unearth the truth about the school, are hailing the decision as a historic one.

"Alright, is there a motion to approve," asked Scott. [So moved. ] Is there a second? [yes] Any comments or objections? Seeing none, the motion carries," stated the Governor.

Applause and cheers rang throughout the room, when Governor Rick Scott and the rest of the Florida Cabinet voted unanimously to approve a request by University of South Florida researchers to exhume the bodies at the Dozier School for Boys.

For months, researchers have said it’s the only way to provide closure to the families of the buried boys and lawmakers appeared to agree, allocating them $190,000 to continue their work at Dozier. But researchers’ latest attempts to exhume the bodies were denied by the state, until Attorney General Pam Bondi placed their request on Tuesday’s Cabinet agenda.

“We know there are unmarked graves currently on that property that deserve a proper burial. It’s the right thing to do, and as trustees of this state, before we put a portion of that land up for sale, we must do what is right.”

And, Robert Straley agrees.

“I never thought we’d get this far, to tell you the truth. But, we finally got far enough where this will all happen," said the 66-year-old.

Straley is one of the so-called White House Boys, a group of older men who claim they were abused on the grounds of the Marianna school.

“Well, they [the Florida Cabinet] did the right thing. This is a historic moment for Florida because they have reached into a past so dark, no one wanted to acknowledge it or talk about it. What happened there is that they flogged boys for 68 years, even after they banned flogging in 1922 by Governor Hardy as being too cruel punishment for even the most hardened convict, it went on at this Dozier school for 68 years,”  Straley added.

Last year, the University of South Florida researchers found about 50 unmarked graves of boys believed to have died at Dozier. The excavation is expected to start later this month.

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

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.