Erin Cox is a 17-year-old Massachusetts high school senior and honor student. She’s been in the news this week because she was stripped of her title as volleyball team captain and suspended for five games.
Why? For simply doing the right thing.
One night, Erin received a text from a friend who was at a party and too drunk to drive, so Erin, who was sober, drove to pick up her friend.
Luckily for her friend, Erin arrived minutes before the cops who arrested dozens for underage drinking. Unfortunately for Erin, she and others were told they would be summoned to court.
Punished for helping out a friend in need?
Even though Erin was sober, and was vouched for by a police officer who stated that she had not been drinking and was not in possession of alcohol, that wasn’t enough for her high school.
“The rules for student-athletes strongly discourage students from engaging in conduct that is unlawful or fails to promote the health and safety of the youth in our community,” Dr. Kevin Hutchinson, superintendent of Erin’s school district, said on the district’s website.
While Erin could have been in violation of the law by simply being at the party and near alcohol while underage, shouldn’t the basis of promoting safety to our youth, like Dr. Hutchinson stated, be more important?
Erin prevented a potential car accident that could have injured her friend and others, or even a possible sexual assault that could have left her friend scarred for life.
Erin set out to rescue a friend in need and do the right thing but was the one who ended up hurt.
I hope that our young people don’t hesitate for one second to do the right thing for fear of being punished on the basis of their school’s bad policy.
These “one size fits all” zero-tolerance policies that schools have come to embrace on everything from a Pop Tart shaped like a gun, to aspirin in a kid’s locker, to this, teaches zero lessons to students.
After what could have been a teachable moment for everyone involved, it appears to be the grown-ups in this case who need to go back to school and learn some common sense.
Any mother of a budding teen knows colleges take this all very seriously, and they should. Any violation of school policy becomes a stain on an otherwise flawless record and can make or break your chance at acceptance.
Any parent of a student athlete knows how seriously they take their sport and how it can impact their self-esteem.
As parents, we constantly pray that our children will make the right choices.
Many parents have told their children to call them immediately if they are ever in a situation that starts going south. We promise to come pick them up immediately. However, sometimes kids don’t call their parents and, instead, choose to call a friend. When that happens, I pray that they would call a friend like Erin.
I believe North Andover High School owes Erin Cox and her family an apology. Our schools should support students who make responsible choices, not punish them.
School administrations are often bureaucratic places that don’t understand nuance or the fact that not everything is the business of the state or even the county.
Kids don’t always make good choices. The CDC reports that alcohol is the most commonly used drug among youth in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs, and is responsible for more than 4,700 deaths among underage youth annually.
When our young people fail, especially if it happens on school grounds or a bus, parents and sometimes the school, must address it. However, we must reward responsible behavior, even if it doesn’t fit neatly in our rulebook.
Erin, you did a great thing. Hang in there!
Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization. She is the author of the forthcoming book "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women" (Zondervan 2016).