Exhumation begins at Dozier School site

Published: Monday, September 2, 2013 at 05:12 PM.

Researchers believe the burial site contains the bodies of black Dozier School students, and suspect another campus burial for white students exists. The school was segregated until 1968. Kimmerle said Saturday that researchers likely won’t be able to confirm a separate burial site for white students until sometime this winter.

Several former Dozier School students and their relatives stopped by the campus Saturday morning to speak with reporters and USF officials. They described being beaten at a white concrete shed on campus known as The White House, where students were allegedly taken to be physically punished. School officials’ primary tool in the punishments, many former students have said, was a leather strap with a wooden handle. Johnny Lee Gaddy, 67, said Saturday he was beaten with the strap until he was “bleeding like a hog.” Other former students have said they were whipped until they passed out.

“They had no heart for children, no compassion for children,” Gaddy said.

Gaddy was sent to the reform school in the 1960s for truancy, as was 68-year-old Richard Huntly. Huntly said Saturday that he, too, was regularly beaten for behavior ranging from fighting to disobedience. Other beatings, he said, seemed to occur at random.

“I was just scared to death during that time,” Huntly said. 

Huntly and Gaddy were with a group of former Dozier School students who believe they should receive financial restitution for their years of physical labor at the school, which was owned and operated by the state. The school “made slaves out of us,” Huntly said. He and other students regularly cut timber and sugar cane, and operated tractors. During one instance of such outdoor labor, Huntly’s toe was severed in an accident.

Another former Dozier school student, 67-year-old Roger Kiser, stood outside the school’s razor-wire fence on Saturday and said he’s become “a little numb” to his experience at the school. 

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