Former private school students seeking $345 million from insurers over alleged sexual abuse

Credit: Alan Judd

Credit: Alan Judd

Twenty men who say they were sexually abused decades ago as students at a northwest Georgia private school are seeking $345 million in damages from the school’s insurers.

The former students recently settled a lawsuit against Roger Stifflemire, a longtime teacher and dorm supervisor at the Darlington School in Rome. Although Stifflemire was not required to compensate the former students, the settlement cleared the way for the former students to pursue an insurance settlement for themselves.

Late last year, the former students reached a separate settlement with Darlington. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The insurance companies covered Darlington during the years that Stifflemire allegedly abused students on school property or on school-sanctioned trips. “Stifflemire, as a faculty member, was insured under those policies,” said Darren Penn, the former students’ lawyer.

Stifflemire, now 81 and living in Alabama, has never acknowledged abusing students. His lawyer, Robert Smalley, said he could not afford to defend himself in court and would cooperate with the former students’ efforts to collect from the insurers.

“He’s done everything that has been asked of him at this point,” Smalley said.

The abuse allegations came to light in a 2017 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reported that school officials had been told about sexual abuse decades earlier. By then, the statute of limitations had expired, and no criminal charges were ever filed.

Darlington commissioned an investigation into the allegations, but the findings have never been made public.

The school removed Stifflemire’s name from a plaque that honored “memorable” and “influential” teachers, and this year unveiled a new monument. This one is dedicated to the victims of sexual abuse at the school, the men who now call themselves the Darlington Survivors.