New Berlin district name removed from sexual abuse lawsuit, Judge Noll says school board should be defendant

By Benjamin Cox on March 18, 2019 at 3:08pm

New Berlin School District was taken off the lawsuit against Carroll Owen Smith Monday.

According to recently appointed Seventh Circuit Judge Gail Noll, the New Berlin Board of Education is the entity that should be named in the lawsuit, along with 72 year old Carroll Owen Smith.

The lawsuit was filed last September in Sangamon County Circuit Court by 47 year old Michelle Forbes. Forbes attended New Berlin High School from 1985 to 1989 and says in the official court filing that she endured years of depression, physical and psychological injuries, and emotional distress after she suffered alleged sexual abuse during her high school career.

As previously reported, Carroll Owen Smith worked at New Berlin High School from 1982 until his retirement in 2005 and was a teacher, coach, and athletic director at the school.

In the lawsuit, Forbes alleges that Smith made a number of actions towards her over the course of her time in high school and “used his position and authority as a teacher, coach, and athletic director at New Berlin High School to perpetuate acts of sexual grooming.” These apparent grooming acts began when Forbes was a 14 year old freshman and evolved as she turned 15 years old into sexual abuse. The lawsuit then says this increasingly abusive series of actions made by Smith culminated with he and Forbes engaging in sexual intercourse on her 17th birthday. According to the official court filing, all of these actions took place on the grounds of New Berlin High School and at Smith’s residence in Jacksonville, and sexual intercourse between Smith and Forbes continued throughout her high school career.

The lawsuit filed by Forbes also raised allegations against New Berlin Community Unit School District 16, stating that district employees were apparently aware of the relationship and did not intervene. The lawsuit adds that the district took no action to tell Forbes’ parents, remove Carroll Owen Smith from the school, or alert law enforcement in any capacity.

However, after Monday’s court hearing, the district can no longer be found at fault.

Presiding judge Gail Noll ruled that the CUSD 16 Board of Education, rather than the official School District, is the proper Defendant under Chapter 122, Section 10-2 of the Illinois School Code.

A motion to dismiss was allowed, with New Berlin Community Unit School District 16 dismissed as a defendant. Forbes and plaintiff’s attorney Bradley Wilson requested leave to amend the complaint to name the Board of Education as a defendant, which was approved.