Erin Cox is a senior honor student at North Andover High School and was captain of her school volleyball team until she was punished and suspended for five games. The crime? She gave her drunk friend a ride home.
"A North Andover High School honor student, Erin was cleared by police, who agreed she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol. But Andover High told Erin she was in violation of the district’s zero tolerance policy against alcohol and drug use," CBS Boston reported.
Cox did not break any laws; she did not drink, did not party — yet was still punished by the school. By reprimanding Cox, North Andover High is likely sending out a confusing and contradictory message to teens about drinking, designated drivers, and asking for help.
I speak from personal experience. At several points during my adolescence and in college, we were told that if we were ever drunk, that we should call our parents for a ride home and that it would be a free-pass (chalk that up to growing up in anything-goes California or something). We were also told to never drive home drunk. "If a kid asks for help from a friend, you don’t want that kid to say 'I’m sorry I can’t help you. I might end up in trouble at school,'" Cox's attorney Wendy Murphy told CBS.
What makes Cox's case a bit more complicated is that it's unclear what rules she was violating. In the North Andover High School athletic handbook, it does say that being at party where alcohol being served is problematic, but that it isn't necessary a violation:
One would think that the police saying Cox was sober would be strong enough evidence that she was doing nothing wrong. If Cox's punishment is simply guilt by association, then what do those rules say of a student who goes to, say, a restaurant where alcohol is being served? Should they refrain from those establishments? Further, in the North Andover handbook, the chemical policy again only mentions possession and use, which the police say Cox did not do:
"The Cox family filed a lawsuit in District Court on Friday but a lawyer for the school district argued against any kind of injunction. The judge ruled the court did not have jurisdiction," CBS reports.
"The school is really trying to take a very serious and principled stand regarding alcohol," said Geoffrey Bak, a lawyer for the school district. Officials at the school have not spoken to the media.