How Could This School Abuse Bill Get Killed by the Florida Legislature?

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley
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Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley

For 109 years in the State of Florida, juvenile offenders were sent to Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys if the Court found they committed a crime or violated terms of juvenile probation. The school was in Mariana, Florida. According to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times, the children housed at the facility were between the ages of 5 and 20 years old.

 Frequently, these children were first time offenders who had committed non-violent offenses, like shoplifting or trespassing. For decades, the State of Florida removed troubled youth from their parent’s care and sent to them to the state-run reform school where they would be committed for extended periods of time.

The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was continuously plagued by reports of abuse, suspicious deaths, and threats of closure. Many former students allege that they were beaten at a facility, called the “White House,” which was on the school grounds. Former residents have reported being brutally beaten, sexually assaulted, humiliated, and tortured by staff members, guards, and other individuals at the facility. Further, there have been allegations that residents were killed and buried around the property. So far, over 500 former students have accused school staff of physical, sexual, and mental abuse.

Last year, Senator Darryl Rouson created SB 750, which would establish a process for certifying the victims of abuse at two schools: Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and the Florida School for Boys. However, the bill never moved forward, as it died in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

That same committee, however, has recently moved forward with a similar bill put forward by Senator Rouson. This bill, SB 288, would have created a certification process for abuse victims at the two schools to streamline the claims process. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 7-1, allowing the bill to pass on to the next committee. Sadly, the Appropriations Committee refused to allow the bill to pass out of committee.

Eligible victims would have been students who attended the schools between 1940 and 1975. The way rightful victims should have been compensated for their suffering is by applying to the Department of State. Those victims certified would have been eligible to file claims and receive financial compensation under state law.

Once again, the system failed these victims of severe abuse as it has too many times in the past.

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Children should never have to endure abuse, especially while at school. Sadly, these facilities are alleged to have committed heinous crimes against children which forever altered the course of their lives. Many carry the weight to this day of the trauma they suffered. 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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