We have often discussed the increasing use of zero tolerance policies that allow administrators and teachers to shed any obligation for judgment or discretion. This is no more obvious than the bizarre case of Erin Cox. Cox did what most people would consider the responsible thing when called by a friend who was concerned that she had too much to drink: she agreed to serve as her designated driver. That act resulted in her discipline by North Andover High School, which is defending its decision to punish her as a technical violation of its alcohol policy.
The 17-year-old honor student was not drinking, mind you. She didn’t even actually drive her friend. When she arrived, the police were present and charged a few kids with drinking alcohol. They did not charge her. However, because she involved in an “alcohol-related incident” — even as someone trying to prevent it — she was demoted as volleyball team captain and suspended for five games.
Administrators and teachers refused to consider the obvious lunacy of this position and even fought to defend the action in court. The family went to court for some justice but was turned away on jurisdictional grounds. The family has accused the lawyer for the school of lying to the court about Cox being arrested.
Attorney Geoffrey Bok insisted that the school administrator were just doing the right thing and “really trying to take a very serious and principled stand regarding alcohol.” What on Earth is principled about demoted a girl who was trying TO PREVENT drunk driving and avoid kids endangering themselves and others. It is neither principled nor logical. It is moronic and the demotions should have be applied to every administrator and teacher that signed off on this utter madness. This would presumably include Carla Scuzzarella, NAHS Principal.
The school policy states: “A student leader who is disciplined or involved in an incident involving alcohol/drugs (controlled substance) violation at ANY TIME, including summer vacation, will lose his/her leadership position in addition to any other consequences.”
In order to achieve this ignoble end, the school had to ignore the obvious meaning of “involved” and “involving” as substantive criteria. To be involved, denotes a substantive and knowing role. Likewise, “involving” refers to the “incident.” The incident for Cox was driving a friend to avoid drunk driving — not an alcohol violation or party. That is why she was not charged. She should have been commended — something an attorney like Bok might have explained to his clients.
The punishment for taking action to protect a classmate and others is a curious choice since the school was criticized recently for a new policy to repel armed attackers. The policy includes a provision to “confront” attackers that remains controversial. Apparently, confronting armed attackers is perfectly permissible but giving a ride to a classmate to avoid a drunk driving incident and possible accident is a violation of school policy.
The proper outcome should be clear. The discipline needs to be rescinded against Cox and discipline proceedings begun for the administrators and teachers responsible for her abusive treatment.