EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 16, 2013

Support builds for player who took drunk friend home

Critics: North Andover High volleyball captain should not be punished

NORTH ANDOVER — Support from across the country is coming to Erin Cox, the North Andover High senior who lost the captaincy of the volleyball team after giving a ride home to a friend who had too much to drink at a party.

Email writers have criticized the high school for punishing Cox for doing what seemed to be the right thing: Getting her friend away from the party, where she had become intoxicated, and bringing her home. In addition to losing the captaincy, Cox got a five-game suspension from the team.

Two online petitions supporting Cox and calling on North Andover school officials to rescind her punishment have been launched, one of them by Carrie Hartwell-Lewchuck, an anti-drunk driving activist whose brother, Zac Hartwell, was killed by an intoxicated motorist two years ago.

Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson said he could not comment on a specific student’s case, but pointed out that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association prohibits student-athletes from possessing, consuming or transporting alcohol.

Both Hutchinson and School Committee Chairman Stanley Limpert noted the district does not have a hardline zero tolerance policy, whereby a student is punished for being in the presence of peers consuming alcohol. Any student accused of an alcohol-related infraction is given the opportunity to state his or her case before discipline is imposed, they said.

Eleanor Cox, Erin’s mother, declined to speak to an Eagle-Tribune reporter last night.

Hutchinson issued a statement to the media which read, in part: “Over the past few days, North Andover High School, its administration and athletic program, have been the subject of scrutiny and criticism over a student discipline decision that the high school administration made relative to one of our student-athletes. Although we have been asked by several media outlets to respond to the allegations made against North Andover High School, our practice is to not comment on matters involving student discipline. This approach is consistent with state and federal laws that prohibit the disclosure of confidential student record information.’’

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