Elite $54k-a-year private school in Georgia settles lawsuit with 20 students who claimed they were sexually assaulted by English teacher and ‘dorm parent’ decades ago

Daily Mail [London, United Kingdom]

November 16, 2021

By Tommy Taylor

  • The private Darlington School in Rome, Georgia settled a lawsuit with 20 former students after they claimed they were sexually assaulted by their teacher
  • English teacher and ‘dorm parent’ Roger Stifflemire had supervised a group of male students between the ages of 13 and 17 when he worked at the academy
  • The former students filed the lawsuit in 2017 after revealing the sexual abuse 
  • A few had reported the abuse to the school but said that action had been taken
  • Stifflemire, who worked at the school between 1974 to 1994, is now retired and has since denied the claims made against him
  • The alleged victims will now receive compensation from the school decades later and are working to stop sexual abuse in their settlement 

An elite $54k-a year private boarding school in Georgia has settled a lawsuit with 20 students who claimed they were sexually assaulted by their English teacher decades ago.

Roger Stifflemire, was both a teacher and ‘dorm parent’ overseeing students between the ages of 13 and 17 at the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia where he allegedly assaulted the male students during the 1970s and 80s. He was employed at the school between 1974 to 1994.

The students, who are now in their 40s and 50s, sued the school in 2017 after the first allegation was made public. They had claimed that Stifflemire had ‘groomed’ them, performed oral sex on them, catcalled them and even took them on weekend trips to a private ski club. 

The victims have settled with the school for an undisclosed amount, but with the condition that the school prevent further sexual assaults against children.  

The now-retired Stifflemire, 80, now lives in Alabama and has always denied the allegations made against him. 

The former male students claimed that Stifflemire coerced them into having sex with him at his off-campus apartment as well as sexually abusing them during other outings on and off of school property. 

Students as young as 13 were also reportedly being molested by Stifflemire.  

The school, however, took no disciplinary action with Stifflemire, and it failed to report the abuse to law enforcement even after receiving complaints.

In the lawsuit filed with Floyd Superior Court, several male students came forward to recount the details of the abuse they endured.

In 1986, former student Tim Lee was invited by another student to Stifflemire’s apartment where other boys would smoke cigarettes and hang out. 

Stifflemire regularly invited Lee back to his apartment after his first visit which included showing pornographic videos and talking about offensive magazine articles. 

He had also been told at one point that Stifflemire wanted a ‘special relationship’ with him.

‘It was sexual abuse,’ Lee told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. ‘All the sexual innuendo, showing me pornography, taking advantage of my naivete in a sexual way.

‘He was trying to groom me to have sex with him. He was looking at me as a sexual object.’

Lee chose to stop their visits after one incedent where Stifflemire sat on his sofa naked when he stopped by. 

Stifflemire later reported Lee for smoking marijuana with another boy after he caught them in the bathroom in retaliation for stopping his visits.

Lee continued to visit Stifflemire afterwards but then refused to return to the school for his senior year  after telling his mother of the abuse who then reported it to the school.

Another student Kyle Knight alleged he had been catcalled by Stifflemire when he was a 13-year-old freshman in 1978 and claimed he was even outright asked him ‘Do you like blowjobs?’

Knight left the school after his freshman year and never explained to his parents why.

He reported the abuse at the end of the year to assistant headmaster Worth Moser who allegedly responded with ‘I’m sure you have other issues.’

Stifflemire allegedly manipulated students into giving him blowjobs at his apartment and even took boys on overnight trips at the Lake Heart of Dixie Ski Club in Alabama.

The club owner Fred Marquette and Stifflemire reportedly teased about which boys they wanted to sleep with during the trips.

Marquette, a former Boy Scout leader, pleaded guilty to three counts of sodomy in 2003 after he sexually assaulted boys in Montgomery in the 1980s. He was released from prison in 2009.

When asked about Stifflemire, he claims he doesn’t remember his own behavior during the incident but said that he asked the teacher to stop coming when he had discovered that boys had complained about being sexually assaulted.

Other staff members also received word over the years of the abuse happening on school grounds.

Former administrator Joe Campbell had been informed of Stifflemire’s behavior by student Johan Fremlin in the late 1970’s.

Campbell, who died in 2002, also received the call from Lee’s mother about the abuse her son endured which he allegedly did not make clear to headmaster Brad Gioia. 

‘You would think I would know, but I was not told anything,’ Gioia said.

‘I’d be one of several people he would have told. Or he could have decided to do nothing.’

Lee, who struggled to come to terms with the abuse, told another teacher Mark Tayloe about Stifflemire in 1999 who appeared ‘defensive and unbelieving.’

In a 2015 letter, a lawyer from Tayloe’s current employer Charlotte Latin School in North Carolina had told Lee that the teacher was not legally obligated to act on past allegations. 

‘What I learned from Mr. Lee in 1999, I passed along to the leadership of Darlington School at that time,’ Tayloe said in a recent email to the Constitution.

‘My recollection of details of that discussion differs from Mr. Lee’s.’

The other survivors continued to go on with their lives but still never fully got over the abuse they had suffered at the hands of their former teacher.

Besides Lee, others had suffered their own problems relating to depression, alcoholism, relationship problems and even an attempted suicide. 

They eventually came together after their former school sent a letter to alumni in May about possible sexual misconduct on their grounds.

Survivors also connected with each other online where they discussed the abuse, which allegedly also included female students.  

‘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,’ Darren Penn, one of the former students’ lawyers said. 

‘We hope this resolution will help prevent this from happening to other innocent children.’

Darlington School has released a statement to recognize the sexual abuse their former students had endured.  

‘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 statement read.