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Zy’Kiria Bell Death at Lake Academy, and the History Behind It

Zy’Kiria Bell, a 17-year-old girl, died on May 29th, 2024, at Lake Academy, a residential behavioral health program owned by the State of Florida. Since the death, it has only garnered local news attention. However, there is more to this case than meets the eye. It brings up Florida’s teen detention history, including the Dozier School for Boys, and more recent tragedies at Eckerd Connect. Additionally, it is not known to the public, including the family of the girl, how the death occurred.

News Channel 8 on the death of Zy'Kiria Bell

The death of Zy’Kiria Bell: Florida’s Child Services Detainment History

There is a long history of detainment in abusive behavioral health centers by the State of Florida.

Hillsborough County, where Zy’Kiria Bell is from, has a deplorable record of its child services department leaving children sleeping at its offices before it can send them to facilities, often around 6 per night.

Hillsborough county, where Zy'Kiria Bell lived, which used Eckerd for child services until recently
Hillsborough County, Florida

This is because of Eckerd, the company that was placed in charge of child services. Eckerd is no longer in charge, but the problems persist.

In one case, three teens escaped the office at night. They then climbed a ladder to the roof, but one fell and had their “gut split open” by a piece of metal sticking out from the ladder.

Florida’s History of Teen Detention Centers

The death of Zy’Kiria Bell is not the only case of Florida operating state-run detention and behavioral health facilities and sweeping deaths under the rug.

The Dozier School for Boys is a historic example, operating from 1900 to 2011. State authorities closed it after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the US Department of Justice investigated it.

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The school was known for its infamous “White House”, where “incorrigible” students were given beatings.

Construction at the Dozier School
Dining Hall Construction, with “White House” in Background

Most of the students detained at the Dozier school were there for minor offenses such as truancy, running away from home, or cigarette smoking.

Bodies at The Dozier School

According to Roger Kiser, who was at the school in 1950’s, “I know of one [boy] that I personally saw die in the bathtub that had been beaten half to death. I thought he’d been mauled by the dogs because I thought he had ran. I never did find out the true story on that. There was the boy I saw who was dead who came out of the dryer. They put him in one of those large dryers.”

In 2016, 8 years before the death of Zy’Kiria Bell, researchers at the University of South Florida attempted to dig up the bodies at the Dozier School’s graveyard, in order to get a positive ID. Records show nearly 100 deaths between 1900 and 1973, one boy as young as 6.

Graves at the Dozier School for Boys

The researchers found 13 of the bodies in the school’s graveyard, but the rest of the 51 graves were located in the woods outside the school.

The Death of Zy’Kiria Bell: Conclusion

The death of Zy’Kiria Bell serves to remind us of the history of the infamous Troubled Teen Industry. In Florida, not only do private companies operate these schools, but many are run by the state itself.

The child abuse and killing of teenagers in the United States remains a pervasive and established institution. The removal of insane asylums under Ronald Reagan was a start. However, the bloodthirsty people who seek to run such institutions have only continued their work.

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They do this through a network of educational consultants, schools, and “aftercare” facilities. To learn about the first step in that pipeline, I recommend reading Stratas Consulting Group and the Troubled Teen Industry.

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