Erin Cox punishment sends teens the wrong message

Erin Cox thought she was doing the right thing by picking up a friend who was too drunk to drive home from a party. However, school administrators found her in violation of the school's zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy. What kind of a message does this send to teens?

High school senior Erin Cox and teens all over the nation learned the wrong lesson from North Andover High School’s Zero Tolerance alcohol policy which resulted in Cox being punished for coming to the aid of a friend at a party she never attended – look out for No. 1 and let your friends drive drunk.

Each fall parents get homework on the first day of school in the form of multiple forms and agreements we must sign.

If you’re like me, with four kids in different schools you likely fall into the habit of simply signing without reading and analyzing each and every page of the voluminous codes of conduct.

Most parents assume their child will never fall victim to a policy designed to curb drugs, alcohol, and firearms in our schools. We sign-off for the good of the collective and run on faith. Also, what can you do about it once it’s in ink? If you don’t sign your kids aren’t allowed into school.

Reading about Erin Cox is one good reason to go back and review your school’s blanket policies and check into exactly what kind of power you have granted the school.

According to the Associated Press, Cox, a senior, lost her volleyball team captaincy and was suspended for five games for what she says was an effort to help a drunken friend.

Cox says she got a call two weeks ago from a friend at a party who said she was too drunk to drive, AP reports.

“She said she went to pick up the friend, because she didn’t want the friend driving drunk or getting into a vehicle with an intoxicated driver,” according to the AP. “By the time Erin arrived at the party, police were already there. They arrested several students for underage possession of alcohol.”

Cox was cleared by police for not drinking or being in the possession of alcohol, but school officials still spiked her senior year athletics record by punishing her for violating a no tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol, her mother, Eleanor Cox, told WBZ-TV.

These widespread blanket policies boil down to lazy parenting on the part of school systems that lack the mom power, resources, and motivation to actually investigate each incident and render individual judgments.

Schools act in loco parentis which according to The Legal Dictionary means, “a legal doctrine describing a relationship similar to that of a parent to a child. It refers to an individual who assumes parental status and responsibilities for another individual, usually a young person, without formally adopting that person.”

However, in this particular case Erin’s mom is suing over the decision her daughter made because she knows her child made the right call, according to AP.

Schools may be acting in our stead, but they are not acting like good parents who know how important it is to go hard on the problem but soft on the people.

A few years ago when one of my sons was in high school his friend saw a boy from his very rough neighborhood pulling a knife from his backpack in a remote part of the school athletic area.

The boy had brought it as a means of protecting himself after a gang incident back in the hood.

My son’s friend was a classic peace maker and held a leadership role in the school community. He knew that if he called a teacher he, his family, and friend could all suffer consequences from the gang.

It was like a modern version of West Side Story unfolding in Virginia.

It seems the boy, a high school junior at the time, had more faith in his own ability to defuse the situation than that of the school authority.

He should have told someone in authority but instead opted to prevent a fellow student from making the mistake of a lifetime.

School hadn’t started for the day yet and no teachers were in his area. He didn’t risk leaving the boy with the weapon to go and get help.

Instead my son’s friend talked the other, panicked, boy into handing him the knife which he threw into the classroom’s trash can in a closet before school began.

However, when a janitor found the weapon and the incident traced back to this boy having taken it away without reporting the situation to the school, he was severely punished.

Not only was the boy stripped of his leadership position, he was expelled under the zero tolerance for weapons policy and sentenced to a rehabilitation school for the worst of the worst students in the district.

I found out about the incident when I went to the rehabilitation school as a volunteer through my chess program and saw the boy in the hallway as armed guards shuffled lines of kids from room to room during the class changes.

Word quickly spread throughout the teen population that you don’t help. The risks are too great.

As parents we need to put our feet down, walk into school board offices and demand a review of these zero tolerance policies before they can do any more damage to the moral code of our kids.

Time to join the PTA, attend the meetings and read those reams of policies we sign off on every year before they sign off on our kids.

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