Private school settles with sex abuse victims.
A settlement has been reached between twenty former students who alleged they were the victims of sex abuse at a Rome, Georgia, private boarding school, the Darlington School. Darlington has students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and is divided into a Pre-K to 8 division and an Upper School division. Student as young as 13 have stepped forward.
Twenty former students and victims, who attended the school in the 1970s and ‘80s, alleged they were victimized by instructor and “dorm parent” Roger Stifflemire. Four years ago, the students filed their suit stating “Stifflemire sexually abused students in his apartment, his car and off campus, including trips to Lake Jordan in Alabama.”
“We are honored to represent these brave individuals and their families. They had the courage to come forward and pursue justice for a lifetime of pain and struggling from the scars and injuries suffered at a time when they were most vulnerable. We hope this resolution will help prevent this from happening to other innocent children,” said attorney for the plaintiffs Darren Penn.
The Darlington School Board of Trustees released a statement after the settlement, saying, “This has been a horrible situation for these survivors and for the school. Mr. Stifflemire’s intimidation, manipulation and exploitation have left scars that may never fully heal. The abuse suffered was abhorrent, and we are truly sorry for the pain these men feel because of their time under our care. The Board of Trustees wishes to express its gratitude for the strength of these men to come forward with their horrific experiences while under the supervision of Darlington. Although this will be a stain forever on the history of our beloved school, we are relieved that the truth has been exposed and addressed. We wish to express our sincere apologies for the experiences these men and their families have endured and their lifelong pain. We are also sorry that the school did not do a better job of protecting them or of recognizing what was happening at the time. We realize that no amount of compensation can remove the wounds, but we pledge to continue to work with these men to find peace and healing.
Tim Lee, one of Stifflemire’s victims, bravely shared his story first, leading to the litigation. He indicated he was invited over to the man’s campus apartment with other boys when he was 14.
“I think I fit his profile you know. Coming from a single-family home, and you know, and I had very boyish looks,” Lee said., adding that Stifflemire forced him “to watch porn and perform sexual acts on him. I would just leave his apartment when I felt like I’d stayed long enough to satisfy him.”
In 2014, Lee urged the school to send out a letter to see if there were more victims. It went out three years later, and more former students came forward with their stories. Stifflemire was employed at the school between 1974 to 1994. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The plaintiffs are set to receive an undisclosed amount as well as a promise from the school that this will never happen again.