Education Law

School's zero-tolerance policy zaps honor student who gave drunk friend a ride home; her family sues

Erin Cox thought she was doing the right thing by picking up a high school friend who called for a ride because she was too drunk to drive home from a party in suburban Boston.

But almost immediately after Cox arrived and waded into the fray to find her friend, police from multiple jurisdictions got there too. Although the 17-year-old honor student wasn’t among those charged with underage possession of alcohol, she was warned she would be summoned to court, according to the Boston Herald and CBS Boston.

North Andover High School said she had violated its zero-tolerance policy against alcohol and drugs. As punishment, the honor student was demoted as volleyball team captain and suspended for five games.

Her family filed suit against the school district in an effort to get the sanction reversed, but the judge said the court lacked jurisdiction, CBS Boston reports. (It appears that the action was brought in state court, rather than as a civil rights case in federal court.) Supporters are now gathering signatures on a petition to the school district on Cox’ behalf.

“If a kid asks for help from a friend, you don’t want that kid to say ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you. I might end up in trouble at school,’” said attorney Wendy Murphy, who is representing the family.

Attorney Geoffrey Bok represented the high school in court last week, the Herald reported. He said it had little discretion once police became involved.

“The school is really trying to take a very serious and principled stand regarding alcohol,” he said.

Fox 4 News provides the text of the policy, which states: “A student leader who is disciplined or involved in an incident involving alcohol/drugs (controlled substance) violation at ANY TIME, including summer vacation, will lose his/her leadership position in addition to any other consequences.”

Hat tip: Post-Standard.

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