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The Dozier School for Boys
Cover of The Dozier School for Boys
The Dozier School for Boys
Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past
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Some true crimes reveal themselves in bits and pieces over time. One such case is the Florida School for Boys, a.k.a. the Dozier School, a place where—rather than reforming the children in their care—school officials tortured, raped, and killed them. Opened in 1900, the school closed in 2011 after a Department of Justice investigation substantiated allegations of routine beatings and killings made by about 100 survivors. Thus far, forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle and her team from the University of South Florida have uncovered fifty-five sets of human remains. Follow this story of institutional abuse, the brave survivors who spoke their truth, and the scientists and others who brought it to light.

Some true crimes reveal themselves in bits and pieces over time. One such case is the Florida School for Boys, a.k.a. the Dozier School, a place where—rather than reforming the children in their care—school officials tortured, raped, and killed them. Opened in 1900, the school closed in 2011 after a Department of Justice investigation substantiated allegations of routine beatings and killings made by about 100 survivors. Thus far, forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle and her team from the University of South Florida have uncovered fifty-five sets of human remains. Follow this story of institutional abuse, the brave survivors who spoke their truth, and the scientists and others who brought it to light.

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About the Author-
  • Dr. Elizabeth A. Murray is a native Cincinnatian from a large family. When she was young, Elizabeth always thought she may grow up to be a writer, teacher, scientist, or explorer—now that she is a college professor and forensic scientist, she is active in all of those fields! Elizabeth always loved science; it was her favorite subject in school. In college, she studied biology and discovered that she found humans to be the most interesting animals, so she continued her studies in the field of anthropology. Being a very practical person, Elizabeth wanted her research focus to have tangible results and benefits that could aid society, and this led her to the forensic application of anthropology. It took many years of college and lots of hard work to become a forensic scientist, but Elizabeth says that teaching is still the very best part of her job. She enjoys taking difficult concepts in science and explaining them in a way that is interesting and relevant to her students.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from July 1, 2019
    The history of a reform school that abused and tortured the young people sent there. The Florida State Reform School, opened in 1900 and later named after former superintendent Arthur G. Dozier, was intended to be a place where youth could be educated and given the skills they'd need to become independent citizens. However, almost from the beginning the school was problematic for the boys: The work was dangerous, and strict discipline protocols involved severe beatings, deprivation, psychological torture, and, some claimed, outright murder. Until 1968 the facilities were racially segregated, with black youth receiving more hazardous work assignments. In the early 21st century, survivors began telling their stories, and a 2007 case of physical abuse was caught on surveillance cameras. State-led investigations into the school cemetery and the survivors' stories drew attention from media and activists. The author, herself a forensic scientist, explores how the school operated without much oversight or reporting and the ways criminal science was used to piece together a picture of the horrors many endured. The testimonies of the survivors and the forensic research into those who died at Dozier are the most compelling aspects of the book. The many photographs and sidebars will make this accessible for young readers. A grim, harrowing, and important read with insights into the troubled juvenile justice system. (source notes, glossary, selected bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2019

    Gr 8 Up-The Dozier School for Boys, near Marianna in the Florida panhandle, was established in 1900 as a reform school for "wayward" boys. It promised "careful physical, intellectual, and moral training" so that boys could be "restored to the community with...character fitting for a good citizen." The reality, however, was far different. Survivors of Dozier began to come forward in 2008 with stories of beatings, sexual abuse, and rape. It was even alleged that several attempted escapees were murdered and buried or consigned to the nearby swamp. In 2009, Dozier survivors filed a class action lawsuit against four Florida state agencies and administrator Troy Tidewell. The lawsuit was dimissed by the judge, who ruled that the statute of limitations for the crimes had elapsed. However, in 2011, two Florida legal service teams presented a case against the school to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The legal teams said that the school had violated civil rights, namely the Fourteenth Amendment. In June of 2011, the school finally closed for good. Photographs, sidebars, and a glossary enhance the narrative. Source notes, bibliography, and an index indicate thorough research. VERDICT After a somewhat shaky start where Dr. Murray seems uncertain of her direction, the forensic scientist and educator gains strength and focus, producing a true crime story which should fascinate young readers. Recommended for all middle, high school, and public library collections.-Katherine Koenig, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 1, 2019
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* The author of this brief and graphic book does not call the men who attended the Dozier School as boys graduates or former residents or any other neutral term; she calls them survivors. The school, founded in 1900, was intended as a reform school for troubled youth, mostly boys. (There were some girls sent there, but by the 1950s, the population was all male.) Segregated by race, the boys endured hard labor, inadequate education, severe beatings, rape, and psychological abuse. By the early part of the twenty-first century, survivors began to talk to each other and to the media, and thanks to the work of people such as filmmaker and Dozier survivor Michael O. McCarthy and journalist Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald, who helped break the story to the general population, the school was closed for good in 2011. Forensic scientist Murray's account is cogent and chilling in its precision as she describes what the children endured at the hands of much of the staff. She is unflinching in her impeccably researched details and writes with compassion for the survivors whose stories she narrates. Numerous photographs pack the pages, amplifying the text as well as source notes, a glossary, a multimedia bibliography, and an index. Much more attention has been drawn to the conditions of incarcerated and detained youth and children, and teens interested in learning more will be well served by this thorough, informative volume.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Kirkus Reviews

    "The Dozier School for Boys, near Marianna in the Florida panhandle, was established in 1900 as a reform school for 'wayward' boys. It promised 'careful physical, intellectual, and moral training' so that boys could be 'restored to the community with . . . character fitting for a good citizen.' The reality, however, was far different. Survivors of Dozier began to come forward in 2008 with stories of beatings, sexual abuse, and rape. It was even alleged that several attempted escapees were murdered and buried or consigned to the nearby swamp. In 2009, Dozier survivors filed a class action lawsuit against four Florida state agencies and administrator Troy Tidewell. The lawsuit was dimissed by the judge, who ruled that the statute of limitations for the crimes had elapsed. However, in 2011, two Florida legal service teams presented a case against the school to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The legal teams said that the school had violated civil rights, namely the Fourteenth Amendment. In June of 2011, the school finally closed for good. Photographs, sidebars, and a glossary enhance the narrative. Source notes, bibliography, and an index indicate thorough research. VERDICT After a somewhat shaky start where Dr. Murray seems uncertain of her direction, the forensic scientist and educator gains strength and focus, producing a true crime story which should fascinate young readers. Recommended for all middle, high school, and public library collections."—School Library Journal

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The Dozier School for Boys
The Dozier School for Boys
Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past
Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD
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