Florida Senate - 2023 SB 1046 By Senator Rouson 16-00804A-23 20231046__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to victims of reform school abuse; 3 providing a short title; defining the term “victim of 4 Florida reform school abuse”; requiring a person 5 seeking certification as a victim of Florida reform 6 school abuse to apply to the Department of State by a 7 specified date; authorizing the estate, personal 8 representative, next of kin, or lineal descendants of 9 a decedent who was a victim of Florida reform school 10 abuse to submit an application on behalf of the 11 decedent; requiring that the application include 12 certain information and documentation; requiring the 13 department to review the application, notify the 14 applicant of any errors or omissions, and request any 15 additional information within a certain timeframe; 16 providing that the applicant has 15 calendar days 17 after such notification to complete the application; 18 requiring the department to review and process a 19 completed application within a certain timeframe; 20 prohibiting the department from denying an application 21 for specified reasons and under certain circumstances; 22 requiring the department to notify the applicant of 23 its determination within a certain timeframe; 24 requiring the department to certify an applicant as a 25 victim of Florida reform school abuse if the 26 department determines the application meets the 27 requirements of this act; requiring the department to 28 submit a list of all certified victims of Florida 29 reform school abuse to the Legislature by a specified 30 date; providing exceptions from specified requirements 31 for crime victim compensation eligibility for 32 applications by victims of Florida reform school 33 abuse; providing an effective date. 34 35 WHEREAS, the Florida State Reform School, also known as the 36 Florida Industrial School for Boys, the Florida School for Boys, 37 the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, and most commonly called 38 the Dozier School, was opened by the state in 1900 in Marianna 39 to house children who had committed minor criminal offenses, 40 such as incorrigibility, truancy, and smoking, as well as more 41 serious offenses, such as theft and murder, and 42 WHEREAS, reports of abuse, suspicious deaths, and threats 43 of closure plagued the school throughout its history, and 44 WHEREAS, many former students of the Dozier School have 45 sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility located on 46 school grounds known as the White House, and 47 WHEREAS, a psychologist employed at the Dozier School 48 testified under oath at a 1958 United States Senate Judiciary 49 Committee hearing that boys at the school were beaten by an 50 administrator, that the blows were severe and dealt with great 51 force with a full arm swing over the head and down, that a 52 leather strap approximately 10 inches long was used, and that 53 the beatings constituted “brutality,” and 54 WHEREAS, a former Dozier School employee stated in 55 interviews with law enforcement that in 1962, several employees 56 of the school were removed from the facility based upon 57 allegations that they made sexual advances toward boys at the 58 facility, and 59 WHEREAS, a forensic investigation funded by the Legislature 60 and conducted from 2013 to 2016 by the University of South 61 Florida found incomplete records regarding deaths and 45 burials 62 that occurred at the Dozier School between 1900 and 1960 and 63 found that families were often notified of the death after the 64 child was buried or were denied access to their child’s remains 65 at the time of burial, and 66 WHEREAS, the excavations conducted as part of the forensic 67 investigation revealed more burials than reported in official 68 records, and 69 WHEREAS, in 1955, the state opened a new reform school in 70 Okeechobee called the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee, 71 referred to in this act as the Okeechobee School, to address 72 overcrowding at the Dozier School, and staff members of the 73 Dozier School were transferred to the Okeechobee School, where 74 similar disciplinary practices were implemented, and 75 WHEREAS, many former students of the Okeechobee School have 76 sworn under oath that they were beaten at a facility on school 77 grounds known as the Adjustment Unit, and 78 WHEREAS, more than 500 former students of the Dozier School 79 and the Okeechobee School have come forward with reports of 80 physical, mental, and sexual abuse by school staff during the 81 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, resulting in trauma that has 82 endured throughout their lives, and 83 WHEREAS, this is a unique and shameful chapter in the 84 history of this state, during which children placed into custody 85 of state employees were subjected to physical, mental, and 86 sexual abuse rather than the guidance and compassion that 87 children in state custody should receive, and 88 WHEREAS, during the 2017 legislative session, the 89 Legislature unanimously issued a formal apology to the victims 90 of Florida reform school abuse with the passage of CS/SR 1440 91 and CS/HR 1335, expressing regret for the treatment of boys who 92 were sent to the Dozier School and the Okeechobee School; 93 acknowledging that the treatment was cruel, unjust, and a 94 violation of human decency; and expressing its commitment to 95 ensure that children who have been placed in the state’s care 96 will be protected from abuse and violations of human decency, 97 NOW, THEREFORE, 98 99 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 100 101 Section 1. (1) This act may be known and cited as the 102 “Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys and Okeechobee School Abuse 103 Victim Certification Act.” 104 (2) As used in this act, the term “victim of Florida reform 105 school abuse” means a living person who was confined at the 106 Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School at any 107 time between 1940 and 1975 and who was subjected to mental, 108 physical, or sexual abuse perpetrated by school personnel during 109 the period of confinement. 110 (3)(a) A person seeking to be certified as a victim of 111 Florida reform school abuse must submit an application to the 112 Department of State no later than September 1, 2023. The estate, 113 personal representative, next of kin, or lineal descendants of 114 the decedent who was a victim of Florida reform school abuse may 115 submit an application on behalf of the decedent. 116 (b) The application must include: 117 1. An affidavit stating that the applicant was confined at 118 the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys or the Okeechobee School, 119 including the beginning and ending dates of the confinement, and 120 that the applicant was subjected to mental, physical, or sexual 121 abuse perpetrated by school personnel during the period of 122 confinement; 123 2. Documentation from the Florida State Archives, the 124 Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, the Okeechobee School, or any 125 other source which shows that the applicant was confined at the 126 school or schools for any length of time between 1940 and 1975; 127 and 128 3. Positive proof of identification, including a current 129 form of photographic identification. This subparagraph does not 130 apply if the application is submitted by the estate, personal 131 representative, next of kin, or lineal descendent of the 132 decedent. 133 (c) Within 30 calendar days after receipt of an 134 application, the Department of State shall review the 135 application and notify the applicant of any errors or omissions 136 or request any additional information relevant to the review of 137 the application. The applicant has 15 calendar days after 138 receiving such notification to complete the application by 139 correcting any errors or omissions or submitting any additional 140 information requested by the department. The department shall 141 review and process each completed application within 90 calendar 142 days after receipt of the application. 143 (d) The Department of State may not deny an application due 144 to the applicant’s failure to correct an error or omission or to 145 submit any additional information requested by the department if 146 the department failed to timely notify the applicant of such 147 error or omission or timely request additional information as 148 provided in paragraph (c). 149 (e) The Department of State shall notify the applicant of 150 its determination within 5 business days after reviewing and 151 processing the application. If the department determines that an 152 application meets the requirements of this section, the 153 department must certify the applicant as a victim of Florida 154 reform school abuse. 155 (f) No later than December 31, 2023, the Department of 156 State must review and process all applications that were 157 submitted by September 1, 2023, and must submit a list of all 158 certified victims of Florida reform school abuse to the 159 President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of 160 Representatives. 161 Section 2. (1) Notwithstanding s. 960.03(3), Florida 162 Statutes, for purposes of a claim under chapter 960, Florida 163 Statutes, by a victim of Florida reform school abuse, as defined 164 in section 1 of this act, or an intervenor, as defined in s. 165 960.03(9), Florida Statutes, the term “crime” means a felony or 166 misdemeanor offense committed by an adult or a juvenile which 167 results in a mental or physical injury or death to another 168 person. A mental injury must be verified by a psychologist 169 licensed under chapter 490, Florida Statutes; by a physician 170 licensed under chapter 458, Florida Statutes, or chapter 459, 171 Florida Statutes, who has completed an accredited residency in 172 psychiatry; or by a physician licensed under chapter 458, 173 Florida Statutes, or chapter 459, Florida Statutes, who has 174 obtained certification as an expert witness pursuant to s. 175 458.3175, Florida Statutes, or s. 459.0066, Florida Statutes. 176 (2) Notwithstanding s. 960.065(2)(c) and (3), Florida 177 Statutes, a victim of Florida reform school abuse or an 178 intervenor may file a claim under chapter 960, Florida Statutes. 179 (3) Notwithstanding s. 960.07, Florida Statutes, a victim 180 of Florida reform school abuse or an intervenor may file a claim 181 under chapter 960, Florida Statutes, within 1 year after the 182 effective date of this act. 183 Section 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.