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Hutchinson: No 'Zero Tolerance' Policy, Sports Participation a 'Privilege'

The North Andover superintendent offers comments on what may have led to Erin Cox being demoted from her volleyball captain role, but so vaguely it may do very little to satisfy calls for transparency.

After a long silence from school administration over the past several days about the controversial punishment of a high school student who picked up a friend from a party, North Andover Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson has spoken on the matter, albeit vaguely.

"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," Hutchinson said in a statement Tuesday. "This approach is consistent with state and federal laws that prohibit the disclosure of confidential student record information."

Erin Cox, 17, went to a party in Boxford to pick up her friend, and the police reportedly arrived and arrested underage drinkers. Cox was summonsed for being at the party, but Boxford Police have confirmed that she was not drinking.

Cox was stripped of her title as captain of the North Andover High School Girls Volleyball team. She was suspended for five games as well.

The matter has been decried a situation of "zero tolerance" gone overboard. But Hutchinson says there is no such policy:

"We do not have a 'zero tolerance policy.' Each incident is fully investigated and decided upon based on the individual facts and circumstances. Our administrators are tasked with applying the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules pertaining to student-athletes and alcohol in a consistent and fair manner," Hutchinson wrote. "To be clear, the MIAA’s, and by extension North Andover High School’s, 'chemical health rule' prohibits student-athletes from possessing alcohol, in addition to prohibiting its use, consumption, or distribution."

Cox has reportedly been cleared of any wrongdoing regarding alcohol use or distribution at the party in question. And Hutchinson -- who said disciplinary decisions like these are made by the principal following MIAA guidelines -- did not offer any clarification as to why North Andover High School Principal Carla Scuzzarella decided the particular punishment was appropriate.

"To be clear, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that participation in interscholastic athletics is a privilege. Rather than simply revoking the privilege, our Administration has consistently afforded its student-athletes a reasonable opportunity to be heard before a disciplinary decision is made."

Her family attempted to file suit to block the suspension, but that attempt was knocked down by the courts because the courts do not have jurisdiction over these kind of school sports matters.
Meredith Varcarolis October 16, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Well Brian, It seems like you have all answers and information to blow this story right out of the water. I guess the police are lying and covering the whole thing up, I guess every single media source must be wrong, I guess the lack of school administrators communicating the facts of the suspension to the media and everyone who has followed this story, must be covering it up too. Facts are facts and it seems from your point of view; you have them, but no one else does or is lying. Why don't you contact all the media sources and give them the information you have, so we can all be as enlightened as you. Maybe you should provide this incriminating information to the N. Andover Patch or Channel 4,5,7 News. Hey, it has gone national as well as global, so please contact CNN, FOX, BBC and anyone else that might want to get the true facts that you are privy too. Really, I may be wrong and will admit it, once all the facts are presented or if they are presented. But until then, I will keep with the multiple sources that keep stating that she was called to pick up a friend. You seem like a real nice guy, so why not expose the truth, since you want to insult others for being on the side of a teenager who we hope did the right thing. Fine, call me naive, it is better than being a jackass.
Kathy October 16, 2013 at 04:23 PM
I am an NAHS parent and have to say I'm truly horrified by how quickly people have decided to stand behind this student and assume that everything she is saying is the truth. Are they going to also stand behind the other party-goers who are sharing their side of things - which happens to include Erin at the party drinking enough to get sick? This has become a absolute circus including reporters camped out at the NAHS driveway entrance jumping out to grab statements from students trying to leave.
RandomPoster October 16, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Here's the part that people are missing that want to take this story at face value. This story was initially reported by The Herald and I believe WBZ. There are no other media sources, the other media just pick up what the Herald and WBZ did, run with it and cite them as sources. This story was run based on the claims of the family and it suggests there is evidence that exonerates the student but it doesn't actually provide the evidence. The school as we know will not comment. Has anyone seen the police report that exonerates her? Maybe it's public but I can't find it and I don't believe the police have or will comment. The real question I would have is for Marjorie Eagan and WBZ to understand if they have any sources other than the family. Let's face it a story like this gets picked up nationally not because reporters can claim with certainty that its true but because it plays well in the media. Read between the lines of the Superintendent's statement, there is no 0 tolerance and they investigated, the school knows a lot more about what happened that night than the reporters that interviewed the student. What's most interesting to me is how quickly people are willing to call for people to get fired and lose their livelihood with out seeing any evidence, yet when someone like Brian suggests there maybe more to the story they want to to see his evidence, accuse him of having a motive or take to calling him names. "It's on the internet it must be true"
Meredith Varcarolis October 16, 2013 at 06:31 PM
Channel 7 discussed the story this evening and even provided a printed copy of the police statement. No one has mentioned FB, except two people on the patch and if students saw her drinking and throwing up, then why would anyone, let her drive a friend home or not speak up. Honesty is always good in a moment like this and there seems to be a lot of speculation and FB chatter. We all know how honest and reliable FB is, right. If the media has not picked up on these FB posts or pics, and knowone has exposed them, then why are we bothering to believe it or a police report. If students want to post such stuff on FB, then why don't they just come out in the open and say it too? I thought you were innocent until proven guilty in this country????
Susan October 16, 2013 at 10:17 PM
The police letter basically said was that she did not smell of alcohol and was very polite. Not really a surprise because she acknowledged that she had not been at the party long. Does anyone really know if she was at the party and doesn't drink (some kids don't), she was there to pick up the friend or she was at the party and hadn't had a chance to get a drink. Would this be the first situation a student made up a story to not get in trouble with her parents. I have no idea why she was at the party but neither do any of you attacking the schools decision. Ask any HS captain and they will tell you they know the rules and they have watched may other students lose their right to be a captain because of similar situations. The MIAA rules are not up to our discretion and if not enforced her teammates suffer and don't get to go to the post season. There are many stories about what happen that night and they don't all support her story.
Kevin October 16, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Susan, Brian, Kathy First Kathy I'm horrified by the fact that you're horrified. As a parent I cant comprehend how you think it's wrong for people to defend a 17 year old girl. Ok now help me out here. the police letter said she did not smell of alcohol and was very polite. Yet Brian, Said FB post mentioned her drinking vodka, being extremely intoxicated and even vomiting. Along with other facts of what transpired that night that I find odd he would be privy to. With all of that the police officer still said she did not smell of alcohol and was very polite? What am I missing? Are you implying the police officer falsified his report? Brian you seem to be a little to forth coming with innuendo to not have a horse in the race. What is your experience with the media? That was an odd statement. Just saying Susan Susan Susan It doesn't matter if she was at the party for 10 minutes or two hours bottom line is the police report said she did not smell like alcohol and was very polite. End of discussion. She had her day in court and nothing came of it. As for other Hs captains saying they know the rules. I know the MIAA rules too they are very black and white, you would almost say they're fool proof pun intended! MIAA rule 62.1 does not intend an athlete being present at a party while others are drinking as guilty by association. On the other hand if Brian is correct and over 40 athletes had been arrested I can see how it was misinterpreted. Because the attorney for NA School district stated that "we need to set an example" I would believe that is the case. Unless again you're implying the police officer falsified his report? As for your statement "if not enforced" MIAA rules are not only for student athletes but ALL coaches too. I know for a FACT that NAHS does not come close to being compliant to coaches certification and education requirements. So if you stand by your statement and for the safety, wellbeing, and optimal learning experience for the kids of NA then the MIAA should place the entire athletic program on probation. I'm willing to provide any and all information to the infractions if you would like them?
Kathy October 17, 2013 at 07:09 AM
Whether Erin was there as a designated driver or as a drinker, she was there. She should have called an adult to go pick up her friend if that's what the situation was. She made a choice to be at the party just like all of the other students who were there, it just happened to be that this time they got caught.
Kevin October 17, 2013 at 08:12 AM
Kathy What don't you get? It's doesn't matter how long or why she was at the party. It does matter and according to the police report that she didnt drink. Read the MIAA rule 62.1 Because you feel she should have called an adult is ubsurd. Pleases tell me one 17 year old kid that would call an adult in that situation. Why out of forty + kids that had been at the party do you feel its Erin's responcabilty to make all of the correct choices You can't manipulate policy and rules to "set examples" Let me ask another question, if the under age drinking problem is so bad in NA what other than "setting a example" has the district done to educate the kids? Have they told the kids if they get into that type of situation they should call an adult? I would love to see the success rate on that policy! You didn't respond to my non compliance to all of the MIAA rules in regards to the coaches so Im guessing you feel that those rules are not important? Lets say that The volley ball coach was certified (she's not) and had her sport specific certification (she doesn't) and has her proper safety training ( she doesn't) that she would have more influence (A true mentor) on her players maybe just maybe this wouldn't have happened?
Matt TheAnimal Holland October 17, 2013 at 05:04 PM
Hi Bryan, We started a fundraising drive for Erin Cox, to reward her instead of punish her. http://www.gofundme.com/4t39zk Keep up the great reporting! Matt
Karen Howard October 17, 2013 at 08:41 PM
According to Hutchinson, the MIAA’s, and by extension North Andover High School’s, 'chemical health rule' prohibits student-athletes from possessing alcohol, in addition to prohibiting its use, consumption, or distribution. According to police, Erin Cox did not possess, use, consume or distribute alcohol. Does the principal have an agenda?
Adam Watkins October 18, 2013 at 03:43 PM
Shameful example of leadership. I hope the student's family has their day in civil court with this principle and school district. Unless the facts are extremely skewed, this chump Carla Scuzzarella, should be unhireable when all is said and done.
Angela Walswick October 21, 2013 at 05:13 PM
I find it difficult to believe that a law enforcement officer would have let Erin leave the party if there was any suspicion at all that she had been drinking - officers have a responsibility to public safety. And I find it difficult to believe that parents would seek to sue over a daughter's treatment by the school district if they were not certain of their daughter's involvement... where it began - and where it ended. Supposedly Erin was ending a shift at work when she responded to her friend's call? And while an attorney may take a case for the money or publicity...taking such a high profile matter on as an attorney is also unlikely unless you are first certain of the 'facts' of the case. Most attorneys don't want to later look foolish. Regardless... I'd like people to consider how this young woman would have felt if she would have done as the North Andover School District apparently recommends? Play out the Worst Case Scenario: Friend calls Erin. Erin refuses to help Friend - refers her instead to an adult. Friend, scared of repercussions from an adult, opts instead to 1) drive herself home, 2) accept a ride with someone else too intoxicated to drive, or 3) walks home. Friend is subsequently sexually assaulted, physically injured, or killed. For the rest of her life, Erin would have had to think 'I could have prevented that.' Instead... now Erin will think twice before coming to anyone else's aid in the same situation... as will other teens. In wanting to 'send a message'... I think instead the North Andover School District needs to think more carefully about the actual message being received. If you polled parents of teenagers killed by a drunk driver... what would their response to Erin’s actions be? How many would have given anything to have Erin either drive their teen home... or have Erin drive home the driver of the car that killed their child? As a DWI group facilitator... and the mother of five teenagers... I applaud Erin's actions. Hopefully there isn't a minor teen personally known to the Scuzzarella, Jackson, Grant, Gilligan, or Hutchinson's families that ever finds him or herself in the same situation- and having to follow their policies. Perhaps then, sadly...the opinions might differ? Kids are going to drink. As adults we don't approve of it... and we don't support it. That doesn't mean it won't happen, and that we don't plan for it. Not to do so is terribly naive. Which is why the actions of a teenager coming to her friend's aid as a designated driver is so important to support. For all we know - Erin saved someone's life on the night in question. Shouldn't that be the bottom line? (That... and what's next? If your kids attend North Andover... get in a food fight at home on a Saturday... are they then subject to school discipline because food fights are prohibited M-F in the school lunchroom? Where does this school district's authority begin and end?)
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 07:44 PM
So, the rumor is there's a video of her out there drunk as a skunk and throwing up. However, no one apparently has seen fit to put their money where their mouth is and post it on youtube. I find this to be inconsistent with the general nature of the internet, where stuff like that is usually posted the same day it happens. Add to that police corroboration of Erin's story (at least the part about her not drinking) and I think what we actually have is a set of spoiled idiot kids who want to drag this young lady down with them. If the video is out there, then post it, otherwise stop talking. If you don't want to produce the evidence, then as far as I'm concerned it doesn't exist.
na October 21, 2013 at 08:14 PM
http://www.gofundme.com/4t39zk ...the story is beginning to unwind.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Really? Just because you managed to convince someone that her statement was false doesn't mean it is. There's still the word of the cop versus your... well nothing actually. You've presented no evidence that her story is false. You have a few kids saying that "x" happened, but their version of events is contradicted by the cop's version. I'm more inclined to believe the latter.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 08:26 PM
And if you were a lawyer... like I am (licensed in Michigan only)... you would know that there's a strategic reason to doing that. By accepting the funds, it makes it look like she had a motive to lie, i.e. financial gain. By rejecting them and asking to put the funds elsewhere, it takes that argument out of play. As to where it went, it's possible that the mother did not know about the comments when she told the fund manager or that she still support's MADD's goals despite the misguided statement of its president. Unless you have something that can contradict the cop's word, you have a long road to haul.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Maybe, but that evidence would only have come in if she had taken the money. By rejecting it, that evidence doesn't come in at all. You can destroy credibility on the stand, but you cannot generally bolster it until the witness has been impeached.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Yes. Some of them at least.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Look. All I'm saying is that if there's a video, it should be plastered all over the internet by now. If a whole bunch of teenagers want to testify that she was drunk as a skunk and throwing up, then fine. But you have the star witness, a cop who has no motive to lie, saying that she was stone-cold sober. I can think of a hundred reasons teenagers would choose to lie and beat this girl down. I cannot think of any that a cop would lie and say she was sober when she wasn't.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 09:06 PM
I seriously doubt that the Patch is deleting those comments, otherwise they would be deleting mine along with them. Generally references to a post are deleted along with the post as a rule. Besides, if they were deleting that many comments, they'd have banned you by now rather than wasting their time. I think you're trying to play games here and make it look like that's what's going on.
Melissa Gleaton October 21, 2013 at 09:31 PM
na, you're blowing up my inbox!!! I think it may be a delay in approval... and since you keep posting, the system may see you as spam. Hold off for a few minutes.
Kenneth Burger October 21, 2013 at 09:33 PM
By the way, the Eagle Tribune has a more complete version of what happened, quoted directly from the police report. It was another youth who was carrying a bottle of vodka and projectile vomiting. That youth was taken to the hospital. http://www.eagletribune.com/latestnews/x1442587704/Four-police-departments-broke-up-teen-drinking-party
RandomPoster October 22, 2013 at 02:18 PM
http://valleypatriot.com/breaking-erin-cox-in-lawrence-district-court-for-possession-of-alcohol-family-giving-donations-back/ Hmmmnnnn
Southpaw December 10, 2013 at 01:54 PM
I am Erin's mother's friend (for a LO-O-ONG time). I know her kids, too. The police had it right. She was NOT drinking. She tried to do a friend a favor and it backfired. The friend called her and Ms. Cox went to pick her up to remove her from the party per her friend's request. She was NOT at the party to begin with.
Michael Quinlan December 10, 2013 at 02:05 PM
http://valleypatriot.com/erin-cox-confesses-to-drinking-at-underage-party-that-gained-national-attention-the-history-of-a-bogus-media-story-that-never-happened/
Kenneth Burger December 10, 2013 at 02:08 PM
I wouldn't believe much from that source Michael. They've already had to retract one story due to its falsity, and now they're quoting more "unnamed sources". That article doesn't have a lick of credibility as far as I'm concerned.
Michael Quinlan December 10, 2013 at 02:14 PM
It's a scam. She was properly 'punished' along with the other teens detained at the incident.
MikeA December 10, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I have a friend whose friend knows everything. I also know this friend (for a long time). Since the valley patriot hasn't been sued, I'm going with what they say until I hear something new from Wendy Murphy.
Kenneth Burger December 10, 2013 at 02:39 PM
You can't generally sue newspapers unless you can prove that they published a story with "actual malice" as indicated under New York Times vs. Sullivan. The fact that Valley Patriot hasn't been sued doesn't mean anything.
MikeA December 10, 2013 at 03:38 PM
The fact that Wendy Murphy is apparently in a witness protection program speaks volumes. And no one is really rebutting what the valley patriot has reported since it was reported.

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