Outcry over student's punishment for helping drunk friend

The suspension of a star high school volleyball player in Massachusetts for what she says was simply helping a friend by serving as a designated driver has created an outcry on social media.

Erin Cox, 17, was stripped of her title as team captain and suspended for five games at North Andover (Mass.) High School after arriving to pick up a friend right as the police arrived at a party where a dozen teens were arrested for underage drinking. A police officer on the scene told Cox’s attorney that she was not drinking and provided a written statement vouching for Cox.

“The police officer confirmed to me what I had been told by Erin’s mom, which is that he saw Erin at the party, that he was standing next to her, that she was perfectly sober, (and) she didn’t even have the slightest odor of alcohol,’’ attorney Wendy Murphy told TODAY Wednesday.

Despite the officer’s statement that Cox was not drinking, her high school benched the honors student from the volleyball team and took away her status as captain. The North Andover School district issued a statement saying it would not comment on matters involving student discipline, and added that it applied statewide rules that prohibit “student-athletes from possessing alcohol, in addition to prohibiting its use, consumption, or distribution.”

Cox has one game remaining on her suspension, and her family is considering a lawsuit against the school. A petition calling for her to be reinstated as captain has more than 4,000 signatures. Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan interviewed Cox and worries about the message the case is sending.

“The next time a kid like that gets a call from a friend who says, ‘You know what I'm hurt, I'm sick, I'm passing out, I'm whatever, come help me,’ the person at the other end of that phone is going to say, ‘If I help them, I’m going to be thrown off the team,’’ Eagan told TODAY.

TODAY viewers online had strong reactions to the punishment rendered by the school district:





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