According to information received from U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, the request by the University of South Florida’s Department of Anthropology to exhume bodies at the Dozier Boys’ School cemetery has been denied.
Florida Department of State Secretary Ken Detzner’s response to the request, from a letter to the school, states that he understood the importance of telling the story of the Dozier School and recognizes that significance is all the more poignant for those whose loved ones may be laid to rest on school grounds.
He continued to say that the Bureau of Archeological Research’s (BAR) original permits to USF, in an effort to identify and protect human remains, was for surface level research.
The letter states the research was to determine the location of the grave sites in order to preserve the cemetery “as a valuable historical resource for Florida and surviving family members.”
It continues to say that the work under the permits was not yet complete and that BAR had extended the permits in order to continue the important work.
When seeking to exhume the bodies through a third permit, Detzner stated that the Department of State does not have the “statutory authority to fulfill your request.”
Under Florida law, the letter states, “human bodies are not objects to be dug up for research purposes.”
It further states the law presumes that buried human remains will rest undisturbed and allows their intentional disinterment only in narrowly defined circumstances for specific procedures.
Senator Nelson has been an advocate for the investigation since his office received requests for help from family members last year.
“At this point, it’s starting to look like a classic run-around,” said Nelson. “This is state-owned land, it’s the state’s responsibility and the state of Florida needs to do the right thing and not pass the buck.”