Decades-old allegations of sexual abuse at a northwest Georgia boarding school are now in the hands of law-enforcement officials. But precisely because the claims are so old, a criminal prosecution seems unlikely.
Seven former students from the Darlington School in Rome — now men in their 40s and 50s — told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution they were molested or propositioned by a long-time English teacher between the mid-1970s and late 1980s. School officials were notified at least three times, beginning in 1978, but took no action against the teacher, Roger Stifflemire, the newspaper’s investigation found.
After the story was published, several former students filed a lawsuit containing similar allegations of abuse and cover-up.
Stifflemire did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. Sometime in the past three years, he discussed the allegations with Brent Bell, Darlington’s headmaster. But in an interview last week, Bell declined to repeat anything Stifflemire had told him.
Darlington recently sent a letter to alumni seeking reports of sexual misconduct involving faculty members. Bell declined to say how many former students have responded. But he said school officials have forwarded all their stories to law enforcement agencies and will pass on any additional reports.
It may be a moot point.
Georgia law in effect when the alleged abuse took place required prosecutions to begin within seven years of the crime. Apparently no one reported Stifflemire to law enforcement at the time, so that window has been closed for years.
The law is different now. Since 2012, no statute of limitations exists for sex crimes against children younger than 16.
Federal law also seems to preclude any prosecution in this case, even though Stifflemire allegedly molested boys during overnight trips out of state.
The Mann Act outlaws taking a child across state lines “for purposes of unlawful sexual abuse.” But federal crimes involving sex offenses must be prosecuted within 10 years.