ROME, Ga. — A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit involving a school sex abuse scandal at a Georgia boarding school.
Twenty former students who attended the Darlington School in Rome alleged sex abuse in the ‘70s and ‘80s, primarily at the hands of a long-time, former instructor and “dorm parent” named Roger Stifflemire.
In 2017, the group filed a lawsuit that said Stifflemire sexually abused students in his apartment, his car and off campus, including trips to Lake Jordan in Alabama.
On Tuesday, the victims reached a settlement with the school.
The settlement will provide an undisclosed amount of compensation to the victims and a pledge from the school to help prevent anything like this from happening again.
“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 Darren Penn who represented the victims.
The Darlington School Board of Trustees released the following statement after the settlement was reached.
“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.
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Channel 2 Action News spoke with a victim who was one of the first to come forward. Tim Lee was a former student who alerted the school to the allegations as far back as the ‘90s.
Lee said he was first invited to Stifflemire’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.
Lee said Stifflemire preyed on him, issued veiled threats using his position and forced Lee to watch porn and perform sexual acts on him in Stifflemire’s dorm.
“I would just leave his apartment when I felt like I’d stayed long enough to satisfy him,” he said.
In 2014, Lee urged the school to send a letter to alumni to see if there were more victims. The letter went out three years later. More former students came forward.
In court papers, Stifflemire has previously denied any wrongdoing.
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