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Bill could aid reform school victims

Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, filed the proposal

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A House Democrat has filed a proposal that could be a step toward providing compensation to victims of abuse at two notorious state reform schools.

Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, filed the bill (HB 431), which would create a process for registering people who suffered abuse between 1940 and 1975 at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Jackson County and the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee County. The victims then would be able to file claims under a state law dealing with compensation for crime victims.

The bill was filed Tuesday for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14.

The now-shuttered Dozier school has drawn heavy attention in recent years because of disclosures about abuse and the discovery of bodies in unmarked graves.

Lawmakers in 2017 formally apologized to victims of abuse at the schools.

Davis’ bill said, in part, “this is a unique and shameful chapter in the history of the state during which children placed into custody of state employees were subjected to physical, mental, and sexual abuse rather than the guidance and compassion that children in state custody should receive.”