Video: School punishes teen for acting as designated driver

It’s not as if Erin Cox arranged to be the designated driver ahead of time for her friends so they could drink, either, or that she imbibed herself at the party. The senior and now-former captain of the volleyball team got a call from her friend asking to be picked up from the party after drinking too much, and Cox responded by arriving there — just before the police did. The police cleared Cox of any involvement, but that wasn’t good enough for the school, which suspended her from five games and stripped her of her leadership role … because of zero tolerance:

It’s tough for Eleanor Cox to talk about how heartbroken her daughter Erin is over the punishment she received for doing what she thought was right.

“She’s very fragile and I’m worried about her. Very worried about her. She didn’t do anything wrong,” Cox told WBZ-TV on Sunday.

Two weeks ago, Erin received a call from a friend at a party who was too drunk to drive. Erin drove to Boxford after work to pick up her friend. Moments after she arrived, the cops arrived too and busted several kids for underage possession of alcohol.

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. In the middle of her senior year, Erin was demoted from captain of the volleyball team and told she would be suspended from playing for five games.

The school might have an argument that Cox was inadvertently enabling the alcohol use by trying to prevent her friend from driving while intoxicated had they made that arrangement ahead of time — but even with that, the punishment is ridiculous for the infraction involved. That argument would justify a counseling session on limits and perhaps the cleaning of a chalkboard or two, not the public humiliation of someone who pointedly was not indulging in alcohol consumption and who wanted to make sure that her friend — and the entire community — remained safe.

Zero tolerance exists to allow administrators to exercise zero judgment and zero sense, and this is yet another perfect example of it.

Update: Eleanor is the mother’s name, which I have corrected to “Erin” in the first sentence of my post. Also, I didn’t add in a critical part of my intended argument in the second-to-last paragraph (“had they made that arrangement ahead of time”), which I didn’t realize I’d forgotten until I read the comments. Even in that circumstance, though, the punishment would be lunacy.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023