No good deed goes unpunished. And that's certainly true when it comes to Erin Cox.
North Andover high schooler Erin Cox answered a friend’s plea to pick her up from a party because the friend was too drunk to drive. That wasn’t Erin’s assessment –her friend described herself that way.
Teenage drinking and driving has deadly consequences. Tracking emergency room visits of patients under the age of 21, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that of the 440 thousand total ER visits, more than half were due to underage drinking. That’s more than all other illicit drugs combined.
Nevertheless, the honor student, who wasn’t drinking, was punished for being where alcohol was being used. The school stripped Erin of her volleyball captain’s title, and forbid her to take part in 5 upcoming games.
The school does not have a zero tolerance drug policy, but it does follow the guidelines of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which prohibits student –athletes from possessing, consuming, or distributing alcohol. How that applies to Erin who was picking up her intoxicated friend is hard to understand. North Andover’s principal noted that Erin was afforded “a reasonable opportunity to be heard,” before the disciplinary action was determined. But is it reasonable to punish Erin for keeping a drunk driver off the road?
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the organization known as MADD, acknowledged Erin’s good intent saying it was “conducted in the spirit of safety and goodwill.” But MADD stressed that in such a situation teens should “reach out to an adult for assistance.”
There are plenty of vocal adults on Erin’s side, including a North Andover alum who has set up a college scholarship fund for her. Erin’s parents have hired a lawyer to protest the ruling because Erin’s mother says her daughter didn’t do anything wrong.
America’s teens are too often casualties in the so-called war against drugs.
I think any act of moral courage in this war—no matter how small—is important. Erin’s punishment for doing the right thing sends the wrong message.