House approves $20M for victims abused at Dozier School for Boys
A memorial for the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys is a good start. Justice would be better.

FDS Dozier
‘This is the proof that we were telling the truth,’ one former Dozier victim said after the vote.

The Florida House unanimously approved legislation Thursday to provide $20 million for victims who endured physical beatings and sexual abuse decades ago at the then-Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in North Florida.

The measure (HB 23), sponsored by Escambia Republican Michelle Salzman and Duval Republican Kiyan Michael, calls for providing a one-time payment program of $20 million through the state Department of Legal Affairs.

The boys confined between 1940 and 1975 and were subjected to abuse at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna and the Okeechobee reform school, another state-based institution known for its abusive nature, would be compensated.

The proposal also says that the Commissioner of Education may award a standard high school diploma to a person who is compensated who has not completed high school graduation requirements.

The measure still needs to be approved in the Florida Senate (SB 24) before it would go to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for his consideration.

According to a bill analysis, there were reports of children being chained to walls in irons, brutal whippings and peonage at Dozier as early as 1901. In the first 13 years of operation, six state-led investigations took place. After former Dozier School students began to publish accounts of the abuse, their complaints gained traction. Ultimately, Gov. Charlie Crist, in 2008, directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Dozier School and the deaths that were alleged and occurred at the school.

Dozier survivors have been coming to Tallahassee for years, hoping to persuade the Legislature to get compensation for their suffering. In between that time, the school was closed after a federal investigation in 2011, and lawmakers gave a formal apology to the survivors back in 2017.

Several lawmakers said on the floor of the House on Thursday that they had visited the Dozier School in recent years, and that they have never forgotten that visit.

“It was a harrowing experience,” said St. Petersburg-based Democratic Rep. Lindsay Cross. “You can feel the evil. You can feel the negativity, years, decades after those atrocities happened, and so this is our opportunity, and it can never repay the price that these boys had – the pain that they endured and their families and the not knowing what happened to those children.”

The vote was emotional for many of the victims who sat in the House gallery on Thursday, with more than a dozen people there.

After the vote, in the Capitol rotunda on the 4th floor, retired Army Ranger Captain Bryant Middleton, said: “This absolutely validates everything that we have said. To hear the representatives say that they went to the White House (the name of the small white building on the Dozier campus where former students were punished). That they saw the White House. We lived in the White House. That was our way of life. They beat us daily in that place. This is validation. This proves that we told the truth that we were honest, that we were sincere, and the people who lied in Jackson County, who denied it here in the state of Florida, here in this very building. This is the proof that we were telling the truth.”

House Speaker Paul Renner, after the vote, took a moment to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.

“What bothered me most is that what we had done to date was simply put up a sign that said, ‘We’re sorry.’” he said.  “And my response to that was that’s not enough. So today we’ve done something more than just say we’re sorry.”

Florida Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson, the bill sponsor in the Senate, said earlier this week that there are an estimated 400 living survivors from the Dozier and Okeechobee schools, meaning that they could each individually receive about $50,000.

___

Mitch Perry reports. Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.

Florida Phoenix

Florida Phoenix is a news and opinion outlet focused on government and political news coverage within the state of Florida.


7 comments

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    February 29, 2024 at 6:36 pm

    Good evening Florida,
    It’s likely that Passadomo will torpedo this bill to add to her atrocious record of killing important legislation.
    Thank you Florida,
    Earl Pitts American

    • JD

      February 29, 2024 at 6:50 pm

      Shitts, didn’t you say all that sage political wisdom had you putting that gun your mouth and *squeezing* a bit back?

      I’m not sure but based on the timeline, I think you could be slacking on your tasks.

      • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

        February 29, 2024 at 7:51 pm

        JD I, Earl Pitts American, can tell you have gotten $HlT-FACED DRUNK and really dont mean to post nasty words intended to defame “The Sage Earl Pitts American”.
        So I, Earl Pitts American, forgive you, JD, and will pray for you to sober up by tomorrow morning so you can still go into work and provide for your wife and kids.
        Remember ,JD, rents due soon so you really dont need to polish off that entire bottle of whiskey tonight.
        Thank you, JD, and if you do get too drunk and pass out I will be glad to come and pick up your Beautiful Wife and kids so they can enjoy the calm, wholsome, safety of “Statley Pitts Manor” tonight.
        Thanks JD,
        Earl Pitts ” A TRUE FRIEND” American

        • JD

          February 29, 2024 at 8:20 pm

          Sober like a judge, but not judging, I’m just relaying your deepest thoughts.

          I say act on your utterings and mutters, to be all you can be.

          As for rent, it’s a good thing I own the house and rental units, so the kids will be fine.

          Remember your tasks Shitts. Remember your tasks.

          • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

            February 29, 2024 at 8:48 pm

            I’m glad you stopped drinking tonight, JD, hopefully everything will be OK over at your place tonight.
            Call me if you need any Sage Advice,
            EPA

  • Michael K

    March 1, 2024 at 10:33 am

    A surprisingly woke action/reparations. Are we sure that Rhonda will sign this?

    • Dont Say FLA

      March 1, 2024 at 1:04 pm

      Rhonda will sign it.

      For some reason, whatever that reason might be, which nobody would ever be able guess due to it being written all over his face, Rhonda is a big ole’ softie when it comes to boys that got molested by their baseball coach. Or whoever did it to these boys.

Comments are closed.


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