Georgia teen loses appeal for reinstatement at middle school

Thursday, March 25, 1999

(Editor’s note: About two months after this story was posted, Puglise told freedomforum.org that the Foremans had decided to drop their lawsuit. He said the family felt that the Littleton high school massacre had created a climate “detrimental to their case.”)

A Georgia teen has lost his appeal for reinstatement at Five Forks Middle School before the Gwinnett County school board.


Matt Paul Foreman was suspended earlier this year for, he says, creating a Web page offensive to school officials. “Natasha’s Heckling Page” (http://members.aol.com/sonofconan), which Foreman and a friend created on a home computer, lists 11 ways to disrupt class and identifies an administrator they “try to avoid the most.”


The teen’s father, Matt Warren Foreman, said the school violated his son’s First Amendment rights by suspending him for the Web page. However, school board officials said that Foreman was suspended for disciplinary problems, not because of the Web page.


“The [school board appeals panel's] decision was no shocker to me,” Mike Puglise, Foreman’s attorney, told freedomforum.org. Puglise says he will file a civil action with the U.S. District Court of North Georgia next month.


“It is a First Amendment issue, and the proper forum will be the federal court,” he said.


Foreman, 14, has moved to North Carolina to live with family members and attend school there rather than attend an “alternative” school cited as an option by the Gwinnett County school board.


“He is in advanced courses, and there are no discipline problems,” Puglise said.


Berney Kirkland, a spokeswoman for the school board, did not return phone calls.