Nearly 50 unidentified kids buried in Florida reform school’s century-old secret graveyard
Reform school cemetery that dates back to 1900s may hold unnamed victims of abusive school administrators, say family members. By Anthony Bartkewicz / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Sunday, October 14, 2012
A secret graveyard tucked behind a Florida reform school is home to 31 cross-shaped grave markers, but nearly 50 unidentified bodies.
The small cemetery dates back to the early 1900s. Some former students at the Florida Industrial School for Boys in Marianna now say victims of abusive school administrators are buried there, CNN reported.
When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated in 2009, it found that 31 boys buried in the woods behind the school died either from the flu or in a fire.
But University of South Florida anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle found 18 more bodies buried without markers.
“We found burials within the current marked cemetery, and then we found burials that extend beyond that,” she said. “These are children who came here and died, for one reason or another, and have just been lost in the woods.”….
A group of men came forward in 2008 and said the “White House” — a small concrete building on school grounds — was the site of brutal beatings and whippings in the 1960s.
Former administrator Troy Tidwell downplayed their claims, saying only that “spankings” took place.
Another former student said a boy named Owen Smith was killed by rifle fire as they tried to run away from the school.
‘No Way Out’ October 15, 2012
By Cara Tabachnick
In 1996, Holly Collins and her children became the first Americans to be granted asylum by the government of the Netherlands due to domestic violence. She fled the United States after losing custody of her children in Family Court to her ex-husband, who abused Holly and their two young children. Her remarkable story was featured in the 87- minute documentary “No Way Out But One,” by the Boston- based journalist/filmmaking team of Garland Waller and Barry Nolan. The film will be shown on the Documentary Channel at the end of October, which is national Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Filmmaker Garland Waller spoke with The Crime Report’s Managing Editor Cara Tabachnick about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), bringing attention to abuse in contested custody cases, and the “Alice in Wonderland” state of the U.S. Family Court System.
The Crime Report: Why did you decide to make this film?
Garland Waller: There is little justice in American family court. The issues of domestic violence and sexual abuse that take place inside the courtroom get little to no recognition. It is hard to get enough traction with these issues. (We hoped) to get some acknowledgement or recognition in a bigger way.
Holly Collins had tons of creditable medical evidence and legal documents to support what she said. And her children were old enough, and had faith enough, to testify or to speak to us on camera about their experience. This took it out of the space of ‘he said, she said’ that normally happens when people think of a custody or divorce case….
TCR: Explain the issues facing abused women and children in family court.
GW: We know from research and statistics that a batterer is more likely than a non- batterer to get custody in family court today. That should be most shocking to people. What most people don’t understand is that most divorces and custody cases never end up in a family court. Even if the couple hates each other, they figure out what to for the (kids’ best interests). (But) when domestic violence is involved, everything changes. It’s Alice in Wonderland. Family courts are kingdoms; they are not like civil courts or criminal courts, and t judges could do anything they want.
When a battered person goes to court, usually she doesn’t look good. She’s nervous, she’s shaky, she’s scared, and maybe she’s been living in a shelter. She is certainly stressed when she goes to court and says ‘my husband beat me, my husband beats the children’ or ‘my husband is sexually abusing the children.’ One would think the court would help. But what usually happens is the woman is either not believed, or the court believes she is exaggerating.
The batterers are usually more charming. The whole family court system is really set up to challenge people who bring up sexual abuse and physical abuse of children. It is not a place where protected parents can go to court and expect support….
The film is going to be shown on the Documentary Channel October 29 at 8:00pm-11:00pm ET.