Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Now That's a Curmie Contender

[EDIT: It turns out that Erin Cox may well be a fraud, and that school authorities behaved appropriately. I leave the story up simply as a reminder to us all that a little skepticism is seldom misplaced. Curmie apologizes to Principal Scuzzarella and the other school officials.]

Even a quick perusal of the nominees for Curmie Awards past (2011 nominees here, 2012 nominees here) will reveal some of my particular bêtes noires when it comes to school administrations: punishing students (or faculty) who didn’t do anything wrong, clinging to inane “zero tolerance” policies, attempting to police legal behavior that takes place off school grounds. A recent case in North Andover, MA, rolls all of these personal pet peeves into one tidy bundle.

Erin Cox (left) is a senior at North Andover High School. She’s an honor student and is, or was, the captain of the volleyball team, and a two-time all-star. A couple of weeks ago, she got a text from an underage friend who thought (no doubt correctly) that she was too intoxicated to drive home from a party. So Cox went to pick her up to give her a ride home. Unfortunately for Ms. Cox, she arrived at about the time the cops did (different reports say she got there just before, just as, or just after the police showed up). The police made several arrests, but recognized the fact that Cox was neither drunk not in possession of alcohol, so she was not among those arrested. Still, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, she appears to have been “summoned to court for drinking.” Given the fact the police obviously found no evidence against her, and apparently agreed that she had not been drinking—not to mention the fact that she could readily prove that she hadn’t been at the party even as a bystander—this constituted more than a little over-reach, but, as Fox News reports, “police later backed Cox's version of events.

In other words, there was no harm done… until the cretinous yahoos at the high school got into the act, that is. Principal Carla Scuzzarella, you see, stripped Cox of her team captaincy and suspended her from five games, because… well, because. There’s a zero tolerance policy, of course, and Scuzzarella, who would apparently have to evolve to have the brains of a rotting rutabaga, dutifully exacted what apparently passes for justice in her little fiefdom. Needless to say, Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson, just as addle-pated as his minion, rushed to her defense, babbling about how participation in athletics is a privilege and claiming that student-athletes receive due process and a fair hearing. The fact that there is no evidence of such a hearing, or any common sense attributable to anyone in that administration, rather undercuts that argument, however, does it not?

Cox sued the district to re-instate her on the team. The court ruled it had no jurisdiction (one wonders who does), but not before the school’s attorney, one Geoffrey Bok, allegedly claimed that Cox had been arrested: that would be, to coin a phrase, a lie. Cox’s lawyer, Wendy Murphy, made the following statement:
That a school would then lie to a judge in a court of law is an outrage and shows the length some school officials will go to to retaliate against a family that dares to challenge an irrational zero tolerance policy.

In fact, as the police officer at the scene reported in a statement that was provided to the principal and the judge, Erin was not arrested and did nothing wrong. He added that she had not been drinking, had no intention of drinking, was there to help a friend and did not have even the ‘slightest’ odor of alcohol on her person.
So let’s review the bidding. There’s a zero tolerance policy about drugs and alcohol. Such policies are always, and I do mean always the result of an administration too morally craven and/or too intellectually comatose to recognize that one size never fits all.

This policy, moreover, applies to off-campus events, where the school has no legitimate jurisdiction. If the police choose to act, that is their decision and their responsibility. The school might, then, reasonably, apply sanctions to students found guilty of a crime… or, perhaps, even those charged with one. But the school district, however much they might wish it to be otherwise, is neither a law enforcement nor a judicial authority. Oh, and of course in this case, the school's lawyer appears to have lied in court in a Hail-Mary attempt to make the principal’s absurd over-reach a little less ridiculous.

Finally, of course, there’s the fact that Erin Cox not only did nothing wrong, she in fact did something right. Were it not for her, her friend might well have driven away from the party before the police arrived, putting a drunken teenager behind the wheel of a car. At the very least, she is to be praised for acting responsibly—and, if I might say so, maturely—in taking care of her friend; the friend, too, while not all her decisions that night were the best, did at least have the sense to ask her friend—Cox—to drive her home. Both these decisions—to ask for help and to give it—are admirable. Both, of course, are being punished by an administration too concerned with rules and too little concerned with moral responsibility, justice, or education. For if nothing else comes of this case, the next time a situation like this comes up, some student somewhere is going to hesitate to do the right thing; some friend is going to be reluctant to ask for a ride; sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt or killed… all because Principal Scuzzarella has neither the moral authority nor the intellect to do her job.

Needless to say, public opinion from observers from the left, right and center on this case is running overwhelmingly in favor of Ms. Cox and against the Silly Squad at the high school. Of course, there’s one exception: Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the quintessence of a narcissistic enterprise if ever there was one. Only the Susan G. Komen Foundation offers any real opposition in the competition to be the alleged charity most about itself and least about its stated cause. Drunk driving is still very much a concern, but MADD per se hasn’t been relevant for at least a generation, if indeed it ever was. So color me unsurprised that they’d object to getting a drunk driver off the road and would side with the authoritarian morons. 17-year-old designated drivers weren’t their idea, after all.

So yes, MADD gets to share in the ignominy of being shown to be ridiculous. But they’re not eligible for a Curmie Award. Scuzzarella and her gaggle of brainless dissemblers, on the other hand: that, my friends, is Curmie material.

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