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Tempers Flare at First Dozier School Task Force Meeting

August 3rd, 2016 by flanews

The Dozier School for Boys, a state run reform school where nearly 100 people died and countless others told horrible tales of abuse – could be getting a memorial soon. Matt Galka reports from the Panhandle’s Jackson County, the site of the now shuttered school, and shows us that there are no easy answers about what to do with the site.

Jerry Cooper was sent to the Florida school for boys in 1961.

“I walked into hell,” he said.

Cooper endured notorious beatings at Dozier. He is part of the “White House Boys;” a group of men that tell stories of the abuse that happened at the state run reform school.

Stephen Britt’s uncle was one of the bodies recovered at the site.

“He was stabbed the day before he was supposed to be released,” said Britt.

Both men are part of the task force charged with creating a memorial for the victims of the school, and figuring out where unclaimed remains should go.

The task force has the option of keeping the remains on site or moving them elsewhere and creating a memorial. The difficult decision put the two men on opposite sides of the issue. It even caused a heated flare up during discussion.

“Burying them together in death will send a signal out that Jackson County and Marianna has evolved into the next level of humanity,” said Britt.

Cooper disagrees, and says victims want to move on.

“They should not be re-interned on that property. It’s just that they were found in very ungodly situations in that cemetery,” he said.

Historian David Jackson says the town and county cant just gloss over the schools history.

“It would be a slap in the face to some people if you take the bodies and you bury them somewhere else and you make it appear that Dozier didn’t exist,” he said.

The task force has until October 1st to submit recommendations. Another meeting featuring public comment will be held on August 19th.

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