Florida Senate - 2017                     (NP)    CS for SR 1440
       By the Committee on Judiciary; and Senator Rouson
       590-03413-17                                          20171440c1
    1                          Senate Resolution                        
    2         A resolution acknowledging the abuses experienced by
    3         children confined in the Arthur G. Dozier School for
    4         Boys and the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee and
    5         expressing the Senate’s regret for such abuses and its
    6         commitment to ensure that the children of this state
    7         are protected from the abuses and violations of
    8         fundamental human decency.
   10         WHEREAS, the Florida State Reform School, also called the
   11  Florida Industrial School for Boys and later known as the Arthur
   12  G. Dozier School for Boys, referred to in this resolution as
   13  “Dozier School,” was opened by the State of Florida in 1900 in
   14  Marianna to house children who had committed minor criminal
   15  offenses, such as incorrigibility, truancy, and smoking, as well
   16  as more serious offenses such as theft and murder, and
   17         WHEREAS, many of the children who were sent to Dozier
   18  School were sentenced without legal representation before the
   19  court, often without a known basis for being sent to the school
   20  or a specific duration of confinement, and
   21         WHEREAS, within the first 13 years of Dozier School’s
   22  operation, six state-led investigations were conducted in
   23  response to reports of children being chained to walls in irons,
   24  severely beaten, and used for child labor, and
   25         WHEREAS, throughout Dozier School’s history, reports of
   26  abuse, suspicious deaths, and threats of closure plagued the
   27  school, and
   28         WHEREAS, many former students of Dozier School have sworn
   29  under oath that they were beaten at a facility located on the
   30  school grounds known as the “White House,” and
   31         WHEREAS, a psychologist employed at Dozier School testified
   32  under oath at a 1958 United States Senate Judiciary Committee
   33  hearing that boys at the school were beaten by an administrator,
   34  that the blows were severe and dealt with a great deal of force
   35  with a full arm swing over the head and down, that a leather
   36  strap approximately 10 inches long was used, and that the
   37  beatings were “brutality,” and
   38         WHEREAS, a former Dozier School employee stated in
   39  interviews with law enforcement that, in 1962, several employees
   40  of the school were removed from the facility based upon
   41  allegations that they made sexual advances toward boys at the
   42  facility, and
   43         WHEREAS, a forensic investigation funded by the Florida
   44  Legislature and conducted from 2013 to 2016 by the University of
   45  South Florida found incomplete records regarding deaths and
   46  burials that occurred at Dozier School between 1900 and 1960,
   47  and that families were often notified after the child was buried
   48  or denied access to their remains at the time of burial, and
   49         WHEREAS, the excavations conducted as part of the forensic
   50  investigation yielded 55 burial sites, 24 more sites than
   51  reported in official records, and
   52         WHEREAS, given the lack of documentation and contradictions
   53  in the historical record, questions persist regarding the
   54  identity of persons buried at Dozier School and the
   55  circumstances surrounding their deaths, and
   56         WHEREAS, in 1955, the State of Florida opened a new reform
   57  school in Okeechobee, called the Florida School for Boys at
   58  Okeechobee, referred to in this resolution as “the Okeechobee
   59  School,” to address overcrowding at Dozier School, and staff of
   60  Dozier School were transferred to the Okeechobee School where
   61  similar practices were implemented, and
   62         WHEREAS, many former students of the Okeechobee School have
   63  sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility on school
   64  grounds known as the “Adjustment Unit,” and
   65         WHEREAS, former Governor Claude Kirk toured Dozier School
   66  in 1968 and stated, “If one of your kids were kept in such
   67  circumstances, you’d be up there with rifles,” and
   68         WHEREAS, Dozier School was closed in 2011 after
   69  investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and
   70  the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of
   71  Justice, and
   72         WHEREAS, more than 500 former students of Dozier School and
   73  the Okeechobee School have come forward with reports of
   74  physical, mental, and sexual abuse by school staff during the
   75  1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and resulting trauma that has endured
   76  throughout their adult lives, NOW, THEREFORE,
   78  Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of Florida:
   80         That the Senate regrets that the treatment of boys who were
   81  sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and the Okeechobee
   82  School was cruel, unjust, and a violation of human decency, and
   83  acknowledges this shameful part of the State of Florida’s
   84  history.
   85         BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Senate apologizes to the
   86  boys who were confined to Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and
   87  the Okeechobee School and their family members for the wrongs
   88  committed against them by employees of the State of Florida.
   89         BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Senate expresses its
   90  commitment to ensuring that children who have been placed in the
   91  State of Florida’s care are protected from abuse and violations
   92  of fundamental human decency.