U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson offered his apology Friday and pledged never to repeat a chapter of Florida’s darkest history at the Dozier School for Boys.
"They are due every bit of deference and apology. They are the ones who endured the whippings and yet still lived to tell about it,” Nelson said.
"This should never happen again,” he added.
Now there’s debate among survivors, family members, and Florida’s cabinet about how to honor the site called Boot Hill Cemetery where University of South Florida scientists recovered 51 boys’ remains.
"If you ask The White House Boys, they will tell you that they want some kind of monument, some kind of memorial so that in the future people who visit that site will know what happened there and I think that's very appropriate,” he said.
USF identified seven boys through DNA and 14 more using artifacts, age and ancestry.
"CFO Atwater did offer some funeral services in terms of support for the Funeral Directors Association which will be a great relief for those families where it's still pending,” said Dr. Erin Kimmerle of USF’s Forensic Anthropology department.
Whether the unidentified boys will be buried where they rested or somewhere outside the now defunct state reform school’s property is still up for debate.
"Ultimately, the cabinet and the state is going to have to find a way to hear all those voices,” Kimmerle said.