A lawsuit against Darlington School has been refiled with additional plaintiffs claiming the school remained silent and concealed information about sexual abuse conducted by one of its former teachers.
Darlington's headmaster L. Brent Bell released a statement concerning the allegations as well as the lawsuit:
"We continue to be heartbroken as more former Darlington students have come forward to share what they’ve been going through. We recognize that the situation is very difficult and emotional for those who bravely have come forward and for the entire Darlington Community. As head of school, my door remains open to anyone who has any information helpful to this process," Bell said in the statement.
"Inappropriate contact by anyone responsible for the care and well-being of our students will not be tolerated at Darlington," Bell said in the statement. "Darlington’s current school policies are focused on respectful boundaries, training, communication, and reporting procedures for both students and faculty and are meant to create a safe environment for our students to learn, grow and excel. We have the dual priorities of focusing on our current students and continuing to understand the past. Following the voluntary dismissal in December, we did reach out to the plaintiffs' attorneys and will do so again once we have fully assessed the newly-filed suits. I would like to thank our community for its continued support and prayers as we move forward."
According to a press release from the Penn Law Group:
Attorneys with the law group representing 17 former students of the Darlington School filed the lawsuits in the Superior Court of Oconee County. This comes after the original lawsuit on behalf of 10 of the 17 students were voluntarily dismissed without prejudice in December of 2017.
"The goal at that time was to align the initial suits along with the additional seven plaintiffs with proposed changes to the state’s Hidden Predator Act, which were being considered by Georgia Legislature earlier this year," the release states.
“Our state legislators failed to pass meaningful protections and improve our Hidden Predator Act during the 2018 Legislative Session,” said attorney Darren Penn. “We are refiling and adding seven new plaintiffs and will seek justice for our clients under existing laws.”
All of the plaintiffs allege they were sexually abused and otherwise victimized by Roger Stifflemire when they were students between around 1977 and 1988. Stifflemire was an English teacher at Darlington from approximately 1974-1994. During the course of this employment, he also served as a dorm parent where he supervised 9th through 12th grade boys.
The complaint alleges that Stifflemire, with the support of Darlington, used his authority and influence as a teacher and dorm parent to obtain the plaintiffs’ trust and then exploited that trust to sexually abuse them. The sexual abuse occurred in dormitories, in Stifflemire’s car, as well as off campus locations on private and public land.
According to the release, when Darlington faculty knew or should have known about Stifflemire’s abusive conduct, the school remained silent and concealed information. After being repeatedly confronted with these allegations by a former student, the school issued a May 26, 2017 letter that falsely stated that the school had no knowledge of the allegations and that all allegations involved non-physical contact.