The number of drunk driving-related fatalities in the U.S. has declined over the past 30 years. In 2011, 9,878 people fewer than 21 years old died in alcohol induced accidents, while in 1982, 21,113 young people died, according to statistics from the Century Council. This is about organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their extensive advertising campaigns putting faces to those affected by drunk driving. What about the overall social stigma against it? The death rates have been consistently falling over the years for all age groups and young people exposed to these campaigns in school and over the airwaves are learning how to prevent drunk driving accidents.
North Andover High School administrators, however, have penalized a student for taking the necessary precautions to make sure her inebriated friend got home from a party. Erin Cox is a senior, a four-year member of the volleyball team and also the captain of the team. She received a call from a friend who was too drunk to drive home. When Cox arrived, police had already arrested several people for possession of alcohol and were threatening other drunken high school students with court summons.
Cox was permitted to take her friend home, but two weeks later, she was suspended from the team for her involvement in the party. Apparently preventing a drunk person from driving is aiding and abetting in the party and violates the school’s zero-tolerance alcohol policy. Cox was stripped of her captain title and suspended for five games, according to a Tuesday video on NBC News. She was later summoned to court for underage drinking, though her attorney argues she was not drinking. This is all because she exercised her judgment and protected her friend.
“The school is trying to take a very serious and principled stand regarding alcohol,” said the high school’s attorney Geoffrey Bok to the Herald Friday. “And we all get that. Teen drinking is a serious problem.”
Before we discuss how the punishments are going to affect Cox, we have to examine how poorly North Andover High School administrators handled the situation. It sets an awful example to students saying if they help out an inebriated friend, they will be punished. The administrators have effectively ensured that some of their students will now drive drunk instead of calling for a ride or staying over. This discourages people from doing what Cox did, which was the right thing.
Now Erin Cox has received international attention on ESPN and on “Good Morning America.” Her mother has been working to fight the suspension and stands by her daughter’s decision.
Let’s start looking at this from Erin’s perspective. She cannot play for five games during her last season on the team. She is no longer captain of a team she has been with for four years. She can no longer put that on her college applications. Not only is this punishment embarrassing enough, Cox is now hindered when applying to colleges because she has lost a huge leadership facet of her resume. The administrators have every right to fight for their stance on alcohol, but they cannot punish a student so severely for potentially saving her friend’s and another motorist’s lives.
This just reaffirms that students can get in trouble for even looking at alcohol. Cox was entirely separate from the party, and did not even touch a red cup. She prevented what could have led to a horrific accident and kept her friend from going to jail. Erin Cox is heroic and deserves an apology from her school’s administration.