Potential graves discovered at shuttered boys’ school

A pollution-cleanup company may have possibly stumbled upon more graves at a shuttered reform school in Marianna, Fla., where researchers had previously found 55 burial sites and remains belonging to some 51 individuals. 

Consulting and engineering firm Geosyntec — the contractor responsible for the overall cleanup — reported the discovery to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection on March 26, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Geosyntec’s subcontractor, New South Associates, had purportedly used a radar to scan nearly two acres of land outside the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys’ cemetery when it noticed “27 anomalies” that seemed consistent with the description of unmarked graves.

“Due to the sensitive nature of this site, particular caution was used to identify possible graves in this survey,” New South said in its report. “If an anomaly had any of the features typically used to identify graves, it was interpreted as a possible grave.” 

Those characteristics include the site’s shape, size and depth, the Times noted.

In response to the report, Governor Ron DeSantis asked county officials earlier this month to work with state agencies to come up with the next steps. 

In 2009, state officers determined that there were 31 burials in the cemetery. A further investigation by anthropologists from the University of South Florida in 2013 revealed the existence of 24 additional graves and the remains of 51 people. Most of those finds were the corpses of boys who died in state custody. 

Erin Kimmerle, who led USF’s team of researchers, said that the pollution-cleanup company’s discovery last month does not necessarily guarantee that more graves have been found. 

“I would just urge a lot of caution and suggest ground-truthing [the process by which a researcher checks the accuracy of remotely sensed data by physically collecting information on location] be done no matter what,” she told the Times. 

Approximately 100 children died at Dozier, many of them in a dormitory fire in 1914 and a massive flu breakout that took place four years later, according to CNN. The other deaths have been shrouded in mystery. 

Dozier achieved notoriety after former students spoke out about the cruel treatment they had received during their time there. In 2008, a group of men called the White House Boys came forward to share stories of being beaten unconscious or sexually assaulted. Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice ultimately shut the school down in 2011.