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Florida blocks exhumations of reform school inmates

July 16, 2013 at 3:36 PM   |   Comments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., July 16 (UPI) -- Florida officials say state law does not allow the exhumation of bodies in grave shafts found at a reform school where boys were beaten.

The Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in the Florida Panhandle closed in 2011. Former inmates in the school, which opened in 1900, have described receiving scores of lashes from guards, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The University of South Florida's request for permission to exhume the bodies of boys buried at the school, many of them in unmarked graves, was denied by the state Monday. Secretary of State Ken Detzner said current law only allows archaeological digs at sites of historic importance, and the Dozier School does not qualify.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found unmarked grave shafts at the school. In a subsequent investigation, the university, using radar that can penetrate the ground, identified 19 more, for a total of almost 50.

Jerry Cooper of Cape Coral, who said he received more than 100 lashes at the school in the 1960s, wants the exploration to continue.

"Enough is enough," he told the Times. "When you've got graves outside of the marked cemetery and you have found more than the FDLE claims that are buried in that graveyard, that's all the more reason to keep going."

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