A teacher accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in the 1990s is back in the classroom in suburban Buffalo Grove after an internal investigation found no wrongdoing in the school.
Cheri Carlson had been on paid administrative leave since November when allegations -- unrelated to her work at the school -- were made in a lawsuit reported on NBC 5.
A woman whose identity we agreed to conceal said Carlson was her spiritual mentor at a religious camp and began abusing her in 1996 when she was 16.
"She said she was showing me God's love," the alleged victim said. "Eventually the physical demands became constant. Sometimes, maybe four times a week."
The lawsuit, filed under the name Jane Doe, is still pending in Cook County Circuit Court. After our report, a woman came forward to say she witnessed some of the alleged abuse.
But on Wednesday, Carlson's attorney released a statement saying "these accusations are absolutely false," and that "Jane Doe is seeking one thing - money."
The school district told NBC 5 its internal investigation found no wrongdoing during Carlson's 20-plus years as a staff member, so she returned to her teaching position at Cooper Middle School.
Jane Doe's lawyer says she was never contacted as part of the school's investigation.
Response from Michael Schmiege, Cherie Carlson's attorney:
Ms. Carlson categorically denies the accusations made by "Jane Doe." These accusations are alleged to have occurred in 1996 and were first brought to light by "Jane Doe" almost eighteen years later in a civil lawsuit. Instead of contacting law enforcement "Jane Doe" went out and hired a personal injury lawyer and filed a lawsuit. In that civil lawsuit, "Jane Doe" is seeking one thing - money. Why hasn't "Jane Doe" contacted law enforcement? Wouldn't a reasonable and credible person notify the police of criminal allegations before hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit? Ms. Carlson has never acted inappropriately with any students or camp members. These accusations are absolutely false and Ms. Carlson looks forward to facing her "Jane Doe" accuser in court and clearing her good name.
Jane Doe's attorney, Timothy Heath, provided the following statement:
In response to what Ms. Carlson's attorney said, I would say the following: "Despite what Ms. Carlson's attorney has stated, Jane Doe was not contacted by the authorities, the school district or DCFS since Ms. Doe publicly disclosed what happened. I do not know how a "thorough investigation" could have been performed without talking to Jane Doe. Given the abundance of evidence supporting Ms. Doe's claims including the statements of other witnesses, Ms. Doe expects to prevail in her lawsuit so that Ms. Carlson realizes what she did, as well as what the other defendants allowed to occur."
In response to what the school district said, I would say the following: "If I was a parent of a child in the school district, I would be concerned regarding the scope of the investigation performed concerning Ms. Carlson's conduct. Simply because an alleged abuser has not been accused of misconduct in every circumstance in which she comes into contact with children, does not mean that she should continue to be allowed to have contact with children. Certainly the information that has already come to light about Ms. Carlson, as discussed in NBC's investigation, should give anyone pause about allowing Ms. Carlson to have continued contact with children. The church to which Ms. Doe belong failed to protect her, even after they became aware of the situation. I can only hope that the school district is not making the same mistake."