Six weeks ago the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice invited five men back to the school to dedicate a plaque outside the cinder block building where they were beaten and to close it down forever.
Roger Kiser, 63, of Brunswick, Ga., believes he witnessed two to three deaths while at the school in 1958 and 1959 and again in 1960. One was a white boy shaking cream to make butter under the dining table, when a school attendant suspected him of masturbating. He was taken away "and never seen again."
Another time, he saw one of the school staff members order two boys into the tumble dryer. Later, their bodies were hauled away and he and others were ordered to say nothing about it.
They were warned, Kiser said, that if they caught us talking to them "we would be taken to the White House and beaten. Corporal punishment was the means by which they controlled us," he said. "We lived in daily fear."
The men have also asked that the investigation include the school's use of the boys for slave labor, sexual abuse, sex trafficking and kidnapping for sexual assault.
But, a local historian, Dale Cox, says the graves really aren't that mysterious.
~ Ten supposedly date back to a 1914 fire that started when an oil lamp exploded in the main dormitory. Eight students and two employees were killed in that fire.
~ Eleven students and one employee died when an influenza epidemic struck in 1918.
That seemingly accounts for 22 of the 32 graves.
Cox claims the others all date from prior to 1949.
~ Three are allegedly of pets the students kept at the school.
~ An additional seven students died from various causes between 1897 and 1949 and also buried in cemetery.
Cox may or may not be right. I do wonder why the families of the students and employees who supposedly died and were buried at the Florida School for Boys didn’t claim the remains of their loved ones for a proper burial.
I’m not sure what the graves will yield, however the stories the White House Boys tell are pretty horrific, and a thorough investigation is clearly warranted!