New Berlin High School alumnus files sexual assault allegations

By Benjamin Cox on September 11, 2018 at 10:09am

A Jacksonville resident is being accused of sexual misconduct against a female student while he taught at New Berlin High School in the mid to late 80’s.

According to a report this morning from the State Journal Register, 72 year old Carroll Owen Smith, of the 1400 block of West Walnut Street, is named in a lawsuit filed last week 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 has endured years of physical and psychological injuries, emotional distress, and depression after she suffered alleged sexual abuse during her high school career.

Current CUSD 16 Superintendent Adam Ehrman told the State Journal Register that Carroll Owen Smith worked at New Berlin High School from 1982 until his retirement in 2005 and was a teacher, coach, and athletic director in his years with 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 raises 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.

Forbes is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 from both CUSD 16 and Carroll Owen Smith, as well as attorney fees for five counts alleged against the district. In addition, attorney fees from two counts alleged against Smith, assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, are listed. A court date for this matter has not yet been scheduled.