Says Football Quarterback Treated Differently for being Male
By: Tom Duggan – October 28, 2013 | 12:01am
NORTH ANDOVER, MA – According to documents obtained by The Valley Patriot (see below for actual documents) the mother of suspended North Andover High School Volleyball player Erin Cox, was in Lawrence District Court and Lawrence Superior Court on October 11, 2013 seeking a restraining order against North Andover High officials.
In her TRO complaint, Mrs. Cox first asked Lawrence District Court Judge Gaffney to reverse the schools decision suspending Erin Cox from the volleyball team for five games, and return her team leadership position as captain of the team, saying her daughter was the victim of discrimination “based on sex” and that her suspension was a “civil rights” violation. The complaint also details that the Cox Family was seeking money for legal fees, attorney’s fees, interests and “issue any other relief deemed appropriate and just.”
In her complaint, Mrs. Cox details the “severe emotional distress” her daughter was going through. Erin “is now experiencing serious emotional distress. She feels not only embarrassed and falsely accused of an offense she did not commit, she is distraught because she feels betrayed by officials and because she was punished for an offense she didn’t commit.”
She admits in court documents that her daughter was at the party for nearly 3o minutes before police arrived.
“The party was noisy and crowded and when Plaintiff (Erin Cox) finally found her friend, she had difficulty convincing her to leave. Within 30 minutes police arrived.”
The decision of Judge Gaffney was that Mrs. Cox had filed in the wrong court and refused to take any actions on her request.
Mrs. Cox then filed the same complaint in Lawrence Superior Court where Judge Cornetta decided to take no action and refused to grant her request because there was no attorney present to represent Erin Cox, the actual defendant.
Although the Cox Family had already retained famed Attorney Wendy Murphy, she didn’t appear in court that day.
Judge Cornetta’s decision states: “No action is taken in this matter at this time. Filing does not comply with MGL Ch. 221. S. 46A, purported plaintiff shall be afforded until the close of business on 11/8/13 to have an appearance in this matter entered by a Massachusetts licensed attorney. Failing the same, the matter shall be dismissed without prejudice.”
Erin Cox has since already served her suspension. To date the Cox family has not filed any lawsuit against the Town of North Andover or the North Andover School District.
Mrs. Cox Request of the Courts
Mrs. Cox asked both courts to “issue a temporary restraining order, immediately reinstating the Plaintiff’s [Erin Cox’s] captaincy and vacating the sanctions against her so that she can play with her team on October 11, 2013.” (the date the TRO was sought).
The Cox family has alleged through their Attorney, Wendy Murphy that Erin was suspended from the school’s volleyball team for five games and lost her position as captain after she was caught by police at an underage drinking party in Boxford.
Cox claims she was only there to pick up a drunk friend who needed a ride home but no documents were filed showing evidence of a text message or a phone call from any friend who was at the party. To date, no friend has come forward identifying themselves as the alleged friend who needed a ride.
Mrs. Cox’s complaint requested an order preventing the school from “further sanctioning the plaintiff [Erin Cox] in any manner or retaliating against her, related to the facts at issue.”
In a hand written statement of damages, Mrs. Cox wrote: “My daughter, Erin Cox has not been physically injured, she has been severely humiliated and so very much wants her dignity back. I would greatly appreciate the reimbursement of our legal fees – at the present time. We are a very modest family and I will sell a $3,500 ring to help pay for Erin’s legal support.”
Mrs. Cox also cited in her complaint, an email sent to North Andover School Officials from one of the police officers who broke up the underage drinking party on September 29, 2013. She presented the email as her only physical evidence to back her daughter’s reason for being present at the party.
What Did Boxford Police Officer Brian Neeley Really Say?
In her complaint, Mrs. Cox stated to the court that police Officer Brian Neeley verified that Erin Cox was only at the drinking party to pick up a friend for a ride home.
“The officer has provided a statement to North Andover school officials describing his observations, and noting that the Plaintiff (Erin), was present at the party in Boxford only to retrieve a friend who had called the plaintiff for a ride home.”
Officer Neeley’s email to Assistant Superintendent Gilligan was not sent from a Police Department email account, but rather, a personal “Hotmail” account. It was sent the day before Mrs. Cox filed for the restraining order and was cc’d to Attorney Wendy Murphy.
In his email, Officer Neeley states to school officials what he observed about Erin Cox’s demeanor and that Erin expressed remorse. He did not state in his email any personal knowledge of what had happened before he arrived or that had he had any evidence corroborating Cox’s claim that she was only there to pick up a friend.
Officer Neeley’s own report shows that he was not present when Erin arrived at the party, and could not have witnessed one way or the other, why Cox was present at the drinking party or what time she actually arrived.
His email reads, in part: “Erin did not have the slightest odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her person. She was polite, articulate, steady on the feet and very remorseful for her decision to go into the residents, but was only helping out a friend who had called for a ride.”
The OFFENSE of Minor in possession
The North Andover School District follows the athletic guidelines of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association when dealing with the conduct of public high school athletes.
MIAA rules makes no distinction between minors who consume alcohol at an illegal underage drinking party and those who are merely present.
Despite stories appearing in the national news media; which reported that North Andover was following a “zero tolerance policy” while punishing Erin Cox (meaning that the school administrators have no discretion), North Andover School Superintendent Hutchinson says that simply isn’t the case.
According to an interview with North Andover Patch, Superintendent Hutchinson says:
“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.”
Massachusetts state law considers possession of alcohol by any minor present at an underage drinking party as constructive possession, whether or not the minor is physically holding or consuming alcohol.
Sex Discrimination, Cox Family Claims Title IX Discrimination
The complaint filed by Mrs. Cox accused North Andover school officials of violating her “civil rights” because she is a female and accused school officials of giving preferential treatment to male athletes.
“Because the punishment imposed on [Erin] appears disparate “based on sex” the North Andover School District is subject to equitable and other relief under Title IX and analogous state civil rights laws that prohibit unequal treatment of students in educational program “based on sex”.
In addition to poor judgement, North Andover’s decision to punish the Plaintiff (Erin) violates her equal protection rights and rights under Title IX of the Education Acts, and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act because serious offenses committed by male athletes have not resulted in similar actions.”
Ties to Coach Rafferty Controversy?
Eleanor Cox cited as an example in her complaint, a case in 2012 where a North Andover football player was “arrested” at an underage drinking party and was only excluded from playing the Thanksgiving football game as well as two basketball games when that season started up.
NAHS Football Coach John Rafferty was fired over that incident, when High School Principal Scuzzarella announced he would not be returning as coach the following year. Rafferty, a well-loved 12 year veteran coach was fired according to sources at North Andover Patch “because he didn’t follow protocol when he disciplined two students this past fall.”
One of those students was the high school quarterback who was supposed to play the Thanksgiving Day Game.
Rafferty was eventually rehired after intense public outrage from parents, residents, students and former students. A “Support Coach Rafferty” Facebook Page drew more than 500 supporters in one day.
Though officials kept silent at the time and never revealed the exact reason the coach was terminated, Eleanor Cox’s court filing may hold the answer to that long sought question.
As an example of sex discrimination at North Andover High Eleanor Cox states:
“For Example, a police log entry dated November 20, 2012 states that a male student was arrested at age 17 for underage possession of alcohol at the intersection of Boxford Street and Candlestick Road at 9:55pm on Friday, November 16, 2012. That student was suspended from playing the team’s last football game, which was Thanksgiving Day and the penalty was carried over for only two games when he began his basketball season thereafter.”
5/ Plaintiff’s [Erin Cox] claims of an equal protection violation are similarly without merit. The male student referred to in Complaint ¶ 22 was punished, just like the Plaintiff [Cox] for 25% of the scheduled games in a season (as computed under the formula provided by MIAA rule 62). He served half of this penalty by being prohibited from playing in the final football game of the season, and the rest of the penalty by being prohibited from paying (SIC) in the first two basketball games when that season began. Since football has many fewer games than volleyball or basketball, half of the 25% penalty was served with fewer games in football than the other two sports. Of Course, for a North Andover high school football player to miss the school’s traditional Thanksgiving Day Game is a major penalty.”
Attorney Murphy stated several times that School Attorney Geoffrey Bok “lied” when he referred to Erin Cox in his opposition as having been “arrested”. His opposition motion does make several references to her “arrest” which police officials say is not correct. No evidence can be found that Attorney Bok “lied”.
Was She Cited or Wasn’t She? Who Is Lying?
Eleanor Cox admits in her complaint that Police Officer Brian Neeley told her on the night of the party that: “’everyone at the party’ receives a summons for minor possession.” But Neeley’s email does not state to school officials that Cox was not charged, cited, or summonsed in his partial defense of Cox.
Attorney Murphy steadfastly maintains in email statements to The Valley Patriot that Cox was not “summonsed” and consistently claims Cox was “not charged with anything.” She also accused our source on the North Andover Police Department of “lying” for passing along to us that Erin Cox was slated to appear in Lawrence District Court with the other students caught at the party by police. Parents who were present at the court when the other students appeared say Erin’s name was called with the other students, but that she simply was not present.
“People lie, why are you surprised that people are lying” Murphy told The Valley Patriot, “your sources lied, the schools lawyer lied, the principal lied… and retaliation like this is unconscionable and actionable.”
“It may not be a lie,” Attorney Allan Knowles (of the Knowles Law Office in Andover, MA) said of Cox possibly being charged, summonsed, noticed to appear, or cited.
“There could be a number of reasons she was not in court with the other students that day besides not being charged. It is not unusual in high-profile cases like this one, that one party asks to appear separately or at a different time to retain legal representation and confer with counsel. The mere absence of a party in court does not necessarily mean that the individual was not summonsed to be there, only that they did not appear that day.”
Murphy said that she does not know if Erin was the only one not charged for attending the underage drinking party, but reiterated that “Erin was not charged”.
Nowhere in Eleanor Cox’s lengthy complaints to either Lawrence District or Lawrence Superior Court did she claim that her daughter was not summonsed, cited, given notice to appear or charged with a crime. No documents have been presented in any forum showing that Erin Cox was not charged with the other 41 students police found at the party.
The Eagle Tribune has since reported that Cox was indeed summonsed as was “everyone at the party”.
Erin Did Not Come Forward – Played Volleyball After Party
According to court documents filed by North Andover school officials, Erin Cox returned to school on Monday after the underage drinking party (the party took place Saturday night) but never notified school officials that she had been caught by police at the party the previous weekend. She attended classes that day without saying a word and then Monday evening played as team captain for the Scarlet Knights Volleyball team.
None of the other 41 students at the party informed officials until Tuesday, after Erin had already played one game after the party.
The other student who turned themself in was also involved in extra-curricular activity, and received the same level of punishment as Erin Cox.
Officials say that Cox was not punished for refusing to come forward as required of all students participating in high school athletics and extra-curricular activities.
MIAA rules also state that any student found to have been present at such parties where underage drinking is taking place will “lose eligibility for the next consecutive interscholastic contests totaling 40% of all interscholastic contests in that sport.”
Students can reduce the penalty to 25% of the remaining games in the season by taking a chemical dependency or treatment program. Documents show that Erin agreed to take the chemical dependency program and thus was only suspended from the volleyball team for five games by Principal Scuzarella and stripped of her position as captain.
A Good Kid
Within the statement of facts in Eleanor Cox’s complaint she detailed her daughter as a good kid who is involved in the community helping people. According to her mom, Erin is and A and B student a student ambassador who served on the student council, belongs to SADD, volunteers at Andover Commons, a facility for the elderly and disabled.
Elanor Cox Decision in Lawrence District Court
Elanor Cox Decision in Lawrence Superior Court
North Andover School District Opposition to Eleanor Cox’s Complaint for a Restraining Order
Despite Attorney Murphy’s Assertions, Eagle Tribune Backs Claims that Erin Cox WAS Summonsed to Appear in Court for Possession of Alcohol – Valley Patriot – UPDATED STORY OCTOBER 23, 2013
Chaos in Cox Case as Stories Conflict – North Andover Patch – October 22, 2013
Erin Cox Family Attorney Wendy Murphy Denies Claims – Valley Patriot – October 22, 2013
School lawyer lied about ‘arrest’ of girl suspended for trying to help drunken pal, attorney says – Fox News October 16, 2013
Erin Cox, suspended Massachusetts prep volleyball player, accused of lying – YAHOO – October 22, 2103
Student athlete shines in first game back after suspension for allegedly aiding drunken friend – Fox News October 19, 2013
Erin Cox, Mass. high school student, punished for aiding drunken friend – CBS – October 15, 2013
North Andover teen was issued summons after Boxford party – Eagle Tribune- October 23, 2013
Lawyer warns of lawsuit against school district ‘and those who lied‘ – Eagle Tribune – October 23, 2013