A high school in Massachusetts is standing by its decision to punish one of its star athletes after she attempted to drive an intoxicated friend home from a party. School administrators are not backing down, despite dozens of news stories, a petition that gained thousands of signatures and a scholarship fund that has raised more than $1,000 for the student.
Erin Cox, a senior at North Andover High School, ran into trouble earlier this month when she tried to drive a friend home from a party, just as it was being broken up by police. Authorities let Cox go free, but they arrested a number of underage drinkers and summoned more to court. Though Cox had been sober at the time of the incident, the school revoked her title as volleyball team captain and suspended her from several games.
While Cox, who says she was merely trying to help out a friend, has received support from all over the world, district Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson said he will not reverse the punishment. In a statement obtained by The North Andover Citizen, he wrote:
The rules for student-athletes strong [sic] discourage students from engaging in conduct that is unlawful or fails to promote the health and safety of the youth in our community. … Each incident is fully investigated and decided upon based on the individual facts and circumstances.
A statement from policeman Brian Neely, who interacted with Cox during the breakup of the party, confirms that Cox was not intoxicated at the time.
“Erin did not have the slightest odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her person,” reads a statement from Neely on The North Andover Citizen. “She was polite, articulate, steady on her feet, and very remorseful for her decision to go into the residence but was only helping a friend out that had called her for a ride.”
Now, many around the web are trying to help Cox and her family.
A Change.org petition asking North Andover High School to reverse Cox’s punishment had received more than 18,400 signatures by Friday afternoon.
Additionally, donations for Erin passed $1,400 on crowd-funding platform GoFundMe.com after just three days. The fund is described as way to give “Erin Cox a scholarship to college for her exemplary behavior.” Matt Holland, the creator of the collection, told The Huffington Post he could relate to Cox because he had a similar experience at North Andover in 1998.
“My friends were captains [of sports teams] at North Andover High School,” Holland said over the phone. “I just saw [my friends] getting railroaded by this no-tolerance policy, which basically means you don’t have to do anything and the administration wipes its hands clean of the gray area and analysis.”
In a statement to the Citizen, Hutchinson said the district does not have a “zero tolerance” policy and that area schools review each individual case before making a decision.
Luckily for Holland, after he and his friends were caught drinking at a party, the school eventually let him off the hook.
“If I had a suspension or lost my captaincy on something so trivial that would have been a big deal,” Holland said. “At least in Erin’s case … she wasn’t even drinking. … It gives the wrong message to young people of what to do.”
After the Cox family sued the school in a district court last week, the judge ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction over the issue. According to Fox News, the family intends to take the matter to federal court.