Earlier this month, 17-year-old Erin Cox, captain of her high school’s volleyball team, finished work at and then met friends at a yogurt shop. She then received a text message from a friend at a party. Her friend asked for a ride home because she had been drinking. Erin went to the party to pick up her friend, knowing it was not acceptable for the partying friend to drive. But immediately after arriving, police from four different districts arrived and arrested a dozen underage drinkers and warned another 15 underage youths that they’d be summoned to court for drinking. Both friends were caught in the police dragnet.
Erin Cox was one of those told she would be summoned for drinking, though she wasn’t. And Boxford MA police Officer Brian Neeley vouched for her sobriety in a written statement. But as a consequence of her involvement, her high school stripped Erin of her captain’s position and suspended her, mid-season, for five games.
School administrators argue that once police became involved, they had no choice. The school policy provides: “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.”
Erin had the best of intentions when she acted to keep her intoxicated friend from driving. And certainly school officials had the best of intentions when they wrote a “zero tolerance” policy. But the policy is a perfect example of regulation/legislation written by folks not well-versed in crafting precise statements that achieve the desired outcome, and only the desired outcome. Our state legislators commit this error routinely, leaving many individuals to either not gain legal benefits or protections they deserve or face lengthy, expensive legal proceedings seeking judicial clarification. Any time a responsible body seeks to establish rules or laws, good intentions are not enough to ensure good outcomes.