Massachusetts Teenager Disciplined For Serving As Designated Driver For Drunken Classmate

13583350-smallWe 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.

Source: Syracuse

50 thoughts on “Massachusetts Teenager Disciplined For Serving As Designated Driver For Drunken Classmate”

  1. America is still a fundamentalist country believing. “spare the rod, spoil the child” thus “due process” such as it is, trumps JUSTICE. The entire “educational system” is focused on creating obedient followers of instructions not free thinking men and women who are capable of creating innovative solutions to the increasingly complex problems of our world. Parents and students in this state should shut down the school and fire the “administrators”. The administrators serve the community not the other way around. The administrators have failed and so should find new vocations for which their dishonest rigidities are better suited. Maybe prison guards.

  2. While obviously insane, under zero tolerance as the policy is written, if a drunk student gets into an automobile accident with another student leader who had nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol should still loose their leadership role because they were still involved in an incident involving alcohol.

  3. “Upstate mom: Special needs son suspended for drawing bomb”
    [yawn, in other words, Wednesday]

    “An Upstate mom says she will meet with school and district officials Wednesday after her special needs son was suspended for drawing a picture of a cartoon bomb from a video game.”


    Lost: AMERICA
    If found call: THI – SIS – BULL

  4. One potential good outcome of this event is that Ms. Cox will learn to play the game I call F the rules. She may learn that playing by the rules must be selectively applied according to circumstance.

  5. PDM, Mike A’s thread is still there as Blouise reminds. I occasionally think that when some topics are 24/7 news and very contentious the blawg doesn’t persue it very hard until there is some significant legal question in conflict to argue. Revive Mike’s thread, see if anyone bites.

    I’m burned out and intractable on the CR/debt ceiling issue from other coverage. If there was a legal question regarding the legality of bypassing Congress that would be a matter that I would like to see a lively debate over. That question isn’t quite ‘ripe’ as yet. IMO.

    Once it ripened I would have been very interested in a new thread or an updated version of Mike A’s. Maybe that’s a mental dynamic shared by the blawgers. Until the significant legal question is present and the dynamics of it are presented by the active parties (the Executive and Congress) we’re just going to be re-hashing positions that center on the political parties. We might get the real debate in a couple of months though, it’s only a short postponement of the question.

    It wasn’t my intention to cast your concern over the issue, or the issue itself as other than a BFD, it is for a number of reasons and I’ve made that point on other blawgs. (Not threads here, other blawgs.) I don’t think anyone on this blawg needs to have that argued; I would sure hope not but I might have stuck a statement to that effect into a short rant on another thread a couple of days ago just because I was wound up, not because it was on topic 🙂 I should have been more clear.

  6. pdm,

    The only thread addressing the subject at all was presented by Mike Appleton over the weekend … I just posted something about South Dakota there.

    The thread is entitled: Massive Resistance and the Government Shutdown

  7. Lottakatz, I’ve been wondering why there hasn’t been a post since October 1st. It has pretty much ruled the media. It may well have resulted in the impeachment (I favored an executive order to raise the ceiling if the idiots prevailed). Isn’t this a topic more important than feral cats? or castration out of Alabama?

    Yes, happily, we seem to have a resolution. But let’s pretend I posted my question yesterday – when it was looking expecially ugly. Would your position remain that there’s not much worth arguing about? All constitutional questions resolved? No concerns about the damage to the country? No concerns about people who lost jobs, who were not paid, confederate flags at the White House, businesses that suffered?

    Sorry, I disagree. It is a BFD and is a topic that I would not have expected, in my wildest dreams, to be ignored by a law blog.

  8. Critical thinking does indeed seem to be on the endangered species list in our culture. This venue also being a good example of this deficiency.

  9. Very smart parenting there Blouise, lol, I’m going to use it on my hypothetical kids if I ever let them grow to teenagers. 🙂

  10. pdm, it appears that the drama has been postponed for a few months, not much worth arguing about.

  11. OT

    I just don’t get it. We are one day short of default and 16 days with the government shut down. I consider those really big deals. I do not understand why there has been no post on this crisis.

  12. What is to be gained by it? Careerism. “Proving” that they are “tough on crime”, the same stupidity politicians demonstrate when reducing public defender funding while making executions easier. It’s not about doing right for anyone except themselves and their own careers.

  13. pdm,

    Some of it has to do with peer pressure. Other kids find out the parents aren’t home and start pressuring the child to have a party. Using the parents is sometimes easier than sounding like a goody/goody.

    I overheard my grandson tell a couple of his friends who knew his parents were going to be out of town and wanted to throw a party … “No way … they always call the cops to watch the house when they’re gone.”


  14. With regard to getting caught in the spam filter… my experience is that it doesn’t like when I cut and paste from a source. I don’t link and then cut and paste (I find it too cumbersome) but if I’m right Elaine must be having a hell of a time.

    Blouise that’s a terrific story about the planned party by your 17 year old. The punch line was completely unexpected. You get points for causing my first “out loud” laugh of the day.

  15. Seems like the failure of education began when these administrators weren’t taught critical thinking. It probably began in the lower grades so they were right for the administrator curriculum in college.

  16. Erin, you’ve done the right thing so now we have to punish you.

    Apparently schools administrators are so worried about being soft on rules and regulations that any perceived infraction now warrants the death penalty.

    We should have zero tolerance for these types of school administrators.

  17. lotta & Blouise,

    I’m constantly digging my own comments out of the spam filter. WP has been quite temperamental. Sometimes my comments with links get posted–sometimes they don’t. I don’t recall having this problem until a few months ago.

  18. “BTW, I’d like to know where the parents of the child who hosted the party were.” (Elaine)

    One time, many years ago, I almost got caught in that situation. My husband and I were going to be out of town. We were taking our youngest daughter with us but leaving our oldest at home as she was a senior and swore up and down that she would abide by all the rules.

    I, having had 3 rather raucous brothers, tended to not believe such promises so kept a vigilant eye on my oldest during the the week before we left. Sure enough, I picked up hints that she was planning a party and confronted her with that knowledge. She didn’t admit it but in her presence I called the police department, told them we were going to be out of town and that the 17 year old would be home alone. I asked them to pay particular attention to our house as she was to have no guests.

    She was furious with me but, later in life, having 5 teenagers of her own, she did exactly the same thing when she and her husband had to be out of town.

    Now, we live in a small town so I have no idea how this would work in a large city but here’s a hint … one doesn’t have to really be talking to the police … the child only has to think one is talking to the police. 😉

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