Friday update: A lawsuit has been filed in Floyd Superior Court today against Darlington School. Darlington Headmaster Brent Bell issued this statement on behalf of Darlington, “Our Community is deeply saddened by and sorry for the pain that these former students have endured for so long. We received the lawsuit late today. We need to read it and our attorney will be advising us as to the appropriate next steps.”
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution: A group of former students from the Darlington School, a private boarding school in northwest Georgia, filed a lawsuit late Friday claiming a teacher sexually abused them for years and that administrators did nothing in response.
“Darlington turned a blind eye to the pain and suffering of its students,” according to the lawsuit.
Earlier report: Seven former Darlington students have come forward with claims of alleged sexual abuse by a former faculty member that reportedly took place on campus between the mid-1970’s to late 1980’s, according to a new investigative report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The former Darlington students, men now in their 40s and 50s, told the Journal-Constitution that faculty member, Roger Stifflemire, molested or propositioned them during episodes that occurred in Stifflemire’s on-campus apartment, during overnight trips out of state, in his car, and even in the hallway outside his classroom. The abuse began when some students were as young as 13. Please be advised the AJC report does include some graphic details of their accounts.
The investigation initially centered on allegations by one former student- who says his mother first reported his abuse to Darlington 29 years ago in 1988. The student says he was invited to the apartment of the dorm master where the faculty member let him smoke cigarettes and offered to play pornographic videos, among other things. The former student described the man’s efforts as “grooming,” although there was no sexual contact.
Darlington hired a law firm to investigate the allegations and sent a letter to approximately 10,000 alumni, former faculty and current families to do a thorough historical review. The new claims came to light as a result of the letter.
Statement from Darlington’s Head of School Brent Bell:
“Speaking for the entire Darlington Community, I’m heartbroken by what these former students have shared and have been going through. I’m sorry they’ve had to endure this pain for so long. Inappropriate contact by anyone responsible for the care and well-being of our students is not tolerated.
“The fact that several former students feel failed by Darlington is difficult but important to know. We’re still in the process of learning and we’re continuing to work closely with law enforcement. Ultimately, we want to know the truth.
“The guiding principles of wisdom, service and honor have been the fundamental cornerstones of the Darlington mission for more than a century. We’re confident Darlington’s current school policies, focused on respectful boundaries, training, communications and reporting procedures for both students and faculty, create a safe environment for our students to learn and grow. It’s important to us that Darlington continues to be a positive place for students to excel. This focus will remain a priority.”
District Attorney Leigh Patterson says she has met with Darlington officials and is in discussions with detectives at Rome City Police about the allegations.