Lincoln Elementary School in Grant Pass, Oregon, was slammed by parents after forcing a boy to eat lunch alone behind a screen because his parents dropped him off late.
After a picture of the boy eating alone was shared on Facebook, the ensuing outrage and hundreds of complaints forced the school to change its tardiness policy.
The first grader, Hunter Cmelo, is seen sitting alone at a cafeteria table behind a cardboard divider at a cafeteria table. On the table is a cup emblazoned with capital letter “D” for “detention.”
Laura Hoover, Hunter’s grandmother, shared the picture on Facebook with the caption: “This is my grandson, Hunter. He’s a little first grader. His momma’s car sometimes doesn’t like to start right up. Sometimes he’s a couple of minutes late to school. Yesterday, he was 1 minute late and this is what his momma discovered they do to punish him! They have done this to him 6 times for something that is out of his control! They make a mockery of him in front of the other students.”
She added that they found him crying and took him home. When his parents found out what he was going through, they were devastated.
“They are shaming him for something that’s not in his control,” his father, Mark Cmelo, said. “It is our fault that he is late.”
Nicole Garloff, Hunter’s mother, revealed that her son was left anxious about going to school because of the punishment. She added that Hunter began “flipping out” a few days earlier because they were running late.
She stated that because of her car troubles and her osteoporosis, she sometimes runs late in the mornings.
“It causes a lot of pain and in the mornings it’s especially hard for me to get going,” she explained.
Hunter cannot ride the school bus because they live within a mile from the school, and he can’t walk to school because the road is too busy.
School superintendent John Higgins and principal Missy Fitzsimmons started getting threatening calls after the photo was posted on Facebook.
However, Higgins maintained that the system gives students a chance to catch up on missed work.
“[The] protocol was communicated to parents via newsletter and is intended to provide the students with an above average level of tardiness, supervised additional learning time in a non-distracting setting. It was never intended to isolate or stigmatize students,” the school district said in a statement.
After receiving complaints, the principal reached out to Hunter’s parents. Following a meeting on Thursday, the school decided to stop using the partition as punishment.
In a statement, the district stated: “We are pleased to report the meeting was productive. The parents’ concerns were politely discussed and, ultimately, the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of both parents and the school. All parties involved believe that an appropriate resolution has been reached.”