Florida Senate - 2022                                     SB 482
       By Senator Rouson
       19-00575-22                                            2022482__
    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 State by a specified date; prohibiting
    7         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         documentation; 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 calendar days after such notification
   16         to complete the application; requiring the department
   17         to review and process a completed application within a
   18         certain timeframe; prohibiting the department from
   19         denying an application for specified reasons and under
   20         certain circumstances; requiring the department to
   21         notify the applicant of its determination within a
   22         certain timeframe; requiring the department to certify
   23         an applicant as a victim of Florida reform school
   24         abuse if the department determines his application
   25         meets the requirements of this act; requiring the
   26         department to submit a list of all certified victims
   27         to the Legislature by a specified date; providing
   28         exceptions from specified requirements for crime
   29         victim compensation eligibility for applications by
   30         victims of Florida reform school abuse; providing an
   31         effective date.
   33         WHEREAS, the Florida State Reform School, also known as the
   34  “Florida Industrial School for Boys,” the “Florida School for
   35  Boys,” the “Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys,” and the “Dozier
   36  School,” was opened by the state in 1900, in Marianna, to house
   37  children who had committed minor criminal offenses, such as
   38  incorrigibility, truancy, and smoking, as well as more serious
   39  offenses, such as theft and murder, and
   40         WHEREAS, throughout the Dozier School’s history, reports of
   41  abuse, suspicious deaths, and threats of closure plagued the
   42  school, and
   43         WHEREAS, many former students of the Dozier School have
   44  sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility located on
   45  school grounds known as the “White House,” and
   46         WHEREAS, a psychologist employed at the Dozier School
   47  testified under oath at a 1958 United States Senate Judiciary
   48  Committee hearing that boys at the school were beaten by an
   49  administrator, that the blows were severe and dealt with great
   50  force with a full arm swing over the head and down, that a
   51  leather strap approximately 10 inches long was used, and that
   52  the beatings were “brutality,” and
   53         WHEREAS, a former Dozier School employee stated in
   54  interviews with law enforcement that, in 1962, several employees
   55  of the school were removed from the facility based upon
   56  allegations that they made sexual advances toward boys at the
   57  facility, and
   58         WHEREAS, a forensic investigation funded by the Legislature
   59  and conducted from 2013 to 2016 by the University of South
   60  Florida found incomplete records regarding deaths and 45 burials
   61  that occurred at the Dozier School between 1900 and 1960 and
   62  found that families were often notified of the death after the
   63  child was buried or were denied access to their child’s remains
   64  at the time of burial, and
   65         WHEREAS, the excavations conducted as part of the forensic
   66  investigation revealed more burials than reported in official
   67  records, and
   68         WHEREAS, in 1955, the state opened a new reform school in
   69  Okeechobee called the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee,
   70  referred to in this act as the “Okeechobee School,” to address
   71  overcrowding at the Dozier School, and staff members of the
   72  Dozier School were transferred to the Okeechobee School, where
   73  similar disciplinary practices were implemented, and
   74         WHEREAS, many former students of the Okeechobee School have
   75  sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility on school
   76  grounds known as the “Adjustment Unit,” and
   77         WHEREAS, more than 500 former students of the Dozier School
   78  and the Okeechobee School have come forward with reports of
   79  physical, mental, and sexual abuse by school staff during the
   80  1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and the resulting trauma that has
   81  endured throughout their lives, and
   82         WHEREAS, this is a unique and shameful chapter in the
   83  history of the state, during which children placed into custody
   84  of state employees were subjected to physical, mental, and
   85  sexual abuse rather than the guidance and compassion that
   86  children in state custody should receive, and
   87         WHEREAS, during the 2017 legislative session, the
   88  Legislature unanimously issued a formal apology to the victims
   89  of abuse with the passage of CS/SR 1440 and CS/HR 1335,
   90  expressing regret for the treatment of boys who were sent to the
   91  Dozier School and the Okeechobee School; acknowledging that the
   92  treatment was cruel, unjust, and a violation of human decency;
   93  and expressing its commitment to ensure that children who have
   94  been placed in the state’s care will be protected from abuse and
   95  violations of human decency, NOW, THEREFORE,
   97  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   99         Section 1. (1)This act may be known and cited as the
  100  “Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and Okeechobee School Abuse
  101  Victim Certification Act.”
  102         (2)As used in this act, the term “victim of Florida reform
  103  school abuse” means a living person who was confined at the
  104  Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School at any
  105  time between 1940 and 1975 and who was subjected to mental,
  106  physical, or sexual abuse perpetrated by school personnel during
  107  the period of confinement.
  108         (3)(a)A person seeking to be certified as a victim of
  109  Florida reform school abuse must submit an application to the
  110  Department of State no later than September 1, 2022. The estate
  111  of a decedent or the personal representative of a decedent may
  112  not submit an application on behalf of the decedent.
  113         (b)The application must include:
  114         1.An affidavit stating that the applicant was confined at
  115  the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School,
  116  the beginning and ending dates of the confinement, and that the
  117  applicant was subjected to mental, physical, or sexual abuse
  118  perpetrated by school personnel during the period of
  119  confinement;
  120         2.Documentation from the Florida State Archives, the
  121  Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, or the Okeechobee School which
  122  shows that the applicant was confined at the school or schools
  123  for any length of time between 1940 and 1975; and
  124         3.Positive proof of identification, including a current
  125  form of photographic identification.
  126         (c)Within 30 calendar days after receipt of an
  127  application, the Department of State shall examine the
  128  application and notify the applicant of any errors or omissions
  129  or request any additional information relevant to the review of
  130  the application. The applicant has 15 calendar days after
  131  receiving such notification to complete the application by
  132  correcting any errors or omissions or submitting any additional
  133  information requested by the department. The department shall
  134  review and process each completed application within 90 calendar
  135  days after receipt of the application.
  136         (d)The Department of State may not deny an application due
  137  to the applicant’s failure to correct an error or omission or
  138  failure to submit any additional information requested by the
  139  department if the department failed to timely notify the
  140  applicant of such error or omission or timely request additional
  141  information as provided in paragraph (c).
  142         (e)The Department of State shall notify the applicant of
  143  its determination within 5 business days after reviewing and
  144  processing the application. If the department determines that an
  145  application meets the requirements of this section, the
  146  department must certify the applicant as a victim of Florida
  147  reform school abuse.
  148         (f)No later than December 31, 2022, the Department of
  149  State must review and process all applications that were
  150  submitted by September 1, 2022, and must submit a list of all
  151  certified victims of Florida reform school abuse to the
  152  President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of
  153  Representatives.
  154         Section 2. (1)Notwithstanding s. 960.03(3), Florida
  155  Statutes, for purposes of a claim under chapter 960, Florida
  156  Statutes, by a victim of Florida reform school abuse, as defined
  157  in section 1 of this act, or an intervenor, as defined in s.
  158  960.03(9), Florida Statutes, the term “crime” means a felony or
  159  misdemeanor offense committed by an adult or a juvenile which
  160  results in a mental or physical injury or death. A mental injury
  161  must be verified by a psychologist licensed under chapter 490,
  162  Florida Statutes, by a physician licensed under chapter 458 or
  163  chapter 459, Florida Statutes, who has completed an accredited
  164  residency in psychiatry, or by a physician licensed under
  165  chapter 458 or chapter 459, Florida Statutes, who has obtained
  166  certification as an expert witness pursuant to s. 458.3175,
  167  Florida Statutes, or s. 459.0066, Florida Statutes.
  168         (2)Notwithstanding s. 960.065(2)(c) and (3), Florida
  169  Statutes, a victim of Florida reform school abuse or an
  170  intervenor may file a claim under chapter 960, Florida Statutes.
  171         (3)Notwithstanding s. 960.07, Florida Statutes, a victim
  172  of Florida reform school abuse or an intervenor may file a claim
  173  under chapter 960, Florida Statutes, within 1 year after the
  174  effective date of this act.
  175         Section 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.