Florida Senate - 2018 SB 1780 By Senator Rouson 19-01086C-18 20181780__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to victims of reform school abuse; 3 providing a short title; defining the term “victim of 4 Florida reform school abuse”; requiring a person 5 seeking certification under this act to apply to the 6 Department of Juvenile Justice by a certain date; 7 prohibiting the estate of a decedent or the personal 8 representative of a decedent from submitting an 9 application on behalf of the decedent; requiring that 10 the application include certain information and 11 documents; requiring the department to examine the 12 application, notify the applicant of any errors or 13 omissions, and request any additional information 14 within a certain timeframe; providing that the 15 applicant has 15 days after notification to complete 16 the application; requiring the department to process 17 and review a completed application within a certain 18 timeframe; prohibiting the department from denying an 19 application for specified reasons and under certain 20 circumstances; requiring the department to notify the 21 applicant of its determination within a certain 22 timeframe; requiring the department to certify an 23 applicant as a victim of Florida reform school abuse 24 if the department determines his application meets the 25 requirements of this act; requiring the department to 26 submit a list of all certified victims to the 27 President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House 28 of Representatives; providing an effective date. 29 30 WHEREAS, the Florida State Reform School, also known as the 31 “Florida Industrial School for Boys,” the “Florida School for 32 Boys,” the “Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys,” and the “Dozier 33 School,” was opened by the state in 1900 in Marianna to house 34 children who had committed minor criminal offenses, such as 35 incorrigibility, truancy, and smoking, as well as more serious 36 offenses, such as theft and murder, and 37 WHEREAS, throughout the Dozier School’s history, reports of 38 abuse, suspicious deaths, and threats of closure plagued the 39 school, and 40 WHEREAS, many former students of the Dozier School have 41 sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility located on 42 the school grounds known as the “White House,” and 43 WHEREAS, a psychologist employed at the Dozier School 44 testified under oath at a 1958 United States Senate Judiciary 45 Committee hearing that boys at the school were beaten by an 46 administrator, that the blows were severe and dealt with great 47 force with a full arm swing over the head and down, that a 48 leather strap approximately 10 inches long was used, and that 49 the beatings were “brutality,” and 50 WHEREAS, a former Dozier School employee stated in 51 interviews with law enforcement that, in 1962, several employees 52 of the school were removed from the facility based upon 53 allegations that they made sexual advances toward boys at the 54 facility, and 55 WHEREAS, a forensic investigation funded by the Legislature 56 and conducted from 2013 to 2016 by the University of South 57 Florida found incomplete records regarding deaths and 45 burials 58 that occurred at the Dozier School between 1900 and 1960 and 59 found that families were often notified of the death after the 60 child was buried or were denied access to their child’s remains 61 at the time of burial, and 62 WHEREAS, the excavations conducted as part of the forensic 63 investigation revealed more burials than reported in official 64 records, and 65 WHEREAS, in 1955, this state opened a new reform school in 66 Okeechobee called the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee, 67 referred to in this act as “the Okeechobee School,” to address 68 overcrowding at the Dozier School, and staff members of the 69 Dozier School were transferred to the Okeechobee School, where 70 similar disciplinary practices were implemented, and 71 WHEREAS, many former students of the Okeechobee School have 72 sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility on school 73 grounds known as the “Adjustment Unit,” and 74 WHEREAS, more than 500 former students of the Dozier School 75 and the Okeechobee School have come forward with reports of 76 physical, mental, and sexual abuse by school staff during the 77 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s and the resulting trauma that has 78 endured throughout their lives, and 79 WHEREAS, during the 2017 legislative session, the 80 Legislature unanimously issued a formal apology to the victims 81 of abuse with the passage of CS/SR 1440 and CS/SR 1335, 82 expressing regret for the treatment of boys who were sent to the 83 Dozier School and the Okeechobee School; acknowledging that the 84 treatment was cruel, unjust, and a violation of human decency; 85 and expressing its commitment to ensure that children who have 86 been placed in this state’s care will be protected from abuse 87 and violations of human decency, NOW, THEREFORE, 88 89 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 90 91 Section 1. (1) This act may be known and cited as the 92 “Arthur G. Dozier School and Okeechobee School Abuse Victim 93 Certification Act.” 94 (2) As used in this act, the term “victim of Florida reform 95 school abuse” means a living person who was confined at the 96 Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School at any 97 time between 1940 and 1975 and who was subjected to physical or 98 sexual abuse perpetrated by personnel of the school during the 99 period of confinement. 100 (3)(a) A person seeking to be certified as a victim of 101 Florida reform school abuse must submit an application to the 102 Department of Juvenile Justice no later than October 1, 2018. 103 The estate of a decedent or the personal representative for a 104 decedent may not submit an application on behalf of the 105 decedent. 106 (b) The application must include: 107 1. An affidavit stating that the applicant was confined at 108 the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School, 109 the beginning and ending dates of the confinement, and that the 110 applicant was subjected to physical or sexual abuse perpetrated 111 by school personnel during the confinement; 112 2. Documentation from the State Archives of Florida, the 113 Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, or the Okeechobee School which 114 shows that the applicant was confined at the schools for any 115 length of time between 1940 and 1975; and 116 3. Positive proof of identification, including a current 117 form of photo identification. 118 (c) Within 30 calendar days after receipt of an 119 application, the Department of Juvenile Justice shall examine 120 the application and notify the applicant of any errors or 121 omissions or request any additional information relevant to the 122 review of the application. The applicant has 15 calendar days 123 after receiving such notification to complete the application by 124 correcting any errors or omissions or submitting any additional 125 information requested by the department. The department shall 126 review and process each completed application within 90 calendar 127 days after receipt of the application. 128 (d) The Department of Juvenile Justice may not deny an 129 application due to the applicant failing to correct an error or 130 omission or failing to submit additional information the 131 department requested unless the department timely notified the 132 applicant of such error or omission or timely requested 133 additional information as provided in paragraph (c). 134 (e) The Department of Juvenile Justice shall notify the 135 applicant of its determination within 5 business days after 136 processing and reviewing the application. If the department 137 determines that an application meets the requirements of this 138 act, the department must certify the applicant as a victim of 139 Florida reform school abuse. 140 (f) No later than March 1, 2019, the Department of Juvenile 141 Justice must process and review all applications that were 142 submitted by October 1, 2018, and must submit a list of all 143 certified victims to the President of the Senate and the Speaker 144 of the House of Representatives. 145 Section 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.