The University of South Florida will appeal a ruling by the state that denied anthropologists and archaeologists a permit to exhume human remains on the campus of Florida's oldest reform school.
The USF researchers met with Florida Attorney General's Office representatives and both agreed to appeal the ruling from Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
"We believe Secretary Detzner has misunderstood his office's authority and jurisdiction under Florida law in this matter, specifically in USF researchers' discovery of what appears to be unidentified human remains at the Dozier site and the danger of those remains being destroyed," USF said in a statement. "The discovery of human remains requires state action under Florida Statutes section 872.05."
The researchers have been trying to learn how many boys are buried in a clandestine cemetery on the reform school campus, and how they died. Using ground penetrating radar, they identified nearly 50 subsurface anomalies that appear to be grave shafts. They've also found human skeletal material.
The state approved spending $190,000 to let USF continue to map the cemetery and identify the remains.
Detzner denied the University's application for an exhumation permit Monday, saying the Department of State didn't have the statutory authority to allow the exhumations. But USF will argue that state law mandates it.
"The University of South Florida remains committed to its research at the former Dozier School for Boys," USF's statement said. "The university also remains committed to fulfilling this project on behalf of the families of untold numbers of children who were buried at Dozier in unmarked graves and these families' fundamental right to have their relatives' remains identified and buried in a proper and respectful manner."