US & Canada

Bodies exhumed at Florida Dozier boys' institution

Forensic anthropologist shows a map of the graveyard to Senator Bill Nelson, during a tour of the closed Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.
Image caption Scientists are hoping to find out how the boys buried at the Dozier School died

Researchers in the US state of Florida have begun work to exhume the remains of dozens of boys from the site of a controversial reform institution.

The researchers are hoping to identify those buried at the Dozier School for Boys - which closed in 2011.

Former students have told of beatings and abuse at the institution - located in the north-western Florida town of Marianna - in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nearly 100 children died while at the school, according to official records.

Many died as a result of a fire in 1914 and the 1918 flu epidemic.

"In these historic cases, it's really about having an accurate record and finding out what happened and knowing the truth about what happened,'' Erin Kimmerle, the forensic anthropologist leading the excavation, told the Associated Press news agency.

The Dozier School was once of the largest institutions for young offenders in the US.

A group of former students, the "White House Boys", called for an investigation into the graves five years ago.

A spokesman for the group, Robert Straley, said he believed more victims are buried at an undiscovered site in nearby woods.

"I think that there are at least 100 more bodies up there,'' he told AP.

In 2010, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it could not substantiate or refute claims that boys died at the hands of staff.

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