Friendships between teens is a tricky thing.
Sometimes your friends are up to no good and the right decision is to stay away. Helping friends steal hubcaps off cars or start fires are examples that come to mind. But when a friend drinks too much at a party and has the good sense to call you for a ride instead of choosing to drive drunk, you should help them out, even if the party might be raided by police when you show up.
That’s my opinion, and by that rubric Erin Cox was being a good friend — a courageous one, even — when she drove to a party to pick up a friend and get her home safely.
When a friend has been drinking and you can keep them from getting behind the wheel and putting other lives in danger, it’s a no-brainer. It’s simple, common sense.
Unfortunately, as we’ve often seen in recent years, school administrators are perfectly comfortable casting aside common sense when there’s a rule to be upheld. That appears to be what happened when North Andover High School punished Cox for violating their strict policy against alcohol and drug abuse. According to the article Sara Brown wrote for The Eagle-Tribune, the school demoted the senior and honors student from being captain of the volleyball team and suspended her from playing for five games for violating the policy.
“Two weeks ago, Cox received a call from a friend at a party who was too drink to drive,” Brown wrote. “When she got there to pick up her friend, North Andover police had also arrived. Police arrested several students for underage possession of alcohol, however, Cox was cleared by police for not drinking or in the possession of alcohol.”
Tim McCarthy, a reporter with The North Andvover Citizen, quotes a prepared statement from School Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson that says, “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. Each incident is fully investigated and decided upon based on the individual facts and circumstances.” As a policy, he said the district doesn’t comment on student discipline matters.
Was information revealed in the hearing that we don’t know about — something that justified punishment? We’ll probably never know. Based on public reports from police and witnesses at the scene, however, nothing in Cox’s behavior justifies getting punished.
If she was indeed helping a friend in need and, in the process, keeping other people out of harm’s way, then she deserved better.
Rules are important. They help our children distinguish right from wrong. But when rules are followed with no regard for unique circumstances, kids learn something else — that those enforcing the rules are misguided and deserve to be defied.
Good luck with that one, North Andover.