MARIANNA, Fla. (CBS/AP) Several former students at a reform school for boys in the Florida panhandle, now men in their 60s who attended the reform school decades ago, say its manicured gardens and winding paths hid a dark secret.
"It was beautiful and it looked like driving onto any college campus in America," Roger Kiser told CBS News last December. Kiser was an orphan and around 12 years old when he was sent to the Florida School for Boys at Marianna.
"I thought nothing could be worse than the orphanage in Jacksonville, Fla., where I lived, Kiser said. "But little did I know that I was jumping out of the fire into the frying pan."
He is still haunted by a building at the school called "The White House," where he says students were beaten and abused.
Now, a former "White House" reform school employee is denying allegations of abuse in a class-action lawsuit filed against him.
During a May 21 deposition, Troy Tidwell said, "Never was a boy beat in my presence," at the former Florida School for Boys in Marianna. Tidwell said boys were spanked, but not beaten, when they broke the rules or tried to run away.
He also said misbehaving boys were fed a "soup that would change their conduct."
Tidwell, another former school employee, the Department of Juvenile Justice and four other state departments are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
More than 300 men who spent time at two Florida reform schools a half century ago are suing the state claiming they were raped and severely beaten by state employees.