A Mom Went To Visit Her Son At Lunch & Caught Him Receiving An Unusual Punishment For Being 'One Minute Late' To School

The elementary school chose to humiliate him for being late to school, and his mother was not having it.

Last updated on Jun 08, 2024

mom catches unusual punishment son late to school zbruch, issalina from Getty Images | Canva Pro

After her 6-year-old son was late to school one morning, an Oregon mother was shocked at the punishment inflicted on him by his elementary school.

In 2015, first grader Hunter Cmelo arrived at school Lincoln Elementary in Grants Pass, Oregon.The boy was barely even late at the start of the day but was issued a punishment that left his mother, Nicole Garloff, extremely unsettled.

Hunter was isolated from his classmates during lunch in the cafeteria after he was one minute late to school.

What was meant to be a normal morning for Hunter ended up leaving the little boy feeling devastated after he arrived one minute late to school and was severely penalized for it. The 6-year-old boy had arrived late to school due to his family having car trouble.


According to Nicole, their Dodge Durango was not working that morning, and was too costly to fix. "[The school has] a policy where every three tardies, you get a detention," Nicole told ABC News. "Every tardy after that, you get a detention."

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Nicole continued, saying that when Hunter learned that he would be a bit late to school, he began to cry as he walked into the building, knowing that late students were heavily punished by the school. Toward the middle of the day, while Hunter was at lunch, Nicole decided to go and check on him and was heartbroken at the sight of her son sitting alone in the lunch room.

"He was at the first table as you walk into the cafeteria, and he was just sitting there with one of those cardboard poster partitions in front of him," Nicole said. "He wasn't tardy so many times that he deserved that.

She took a photo, which was later posted to Facebook by Hunter's grandmother, Laura Hoover, and the post ended up going viral. In the photo, Hunter is sitting alone at a cafeteria table, with a cardboard divider blocking him from seeing anyone else in the cafeteria and vice versa.

"This is my grandson, Hunter. He's a little first grader," Laura wrote on Facebook, according to Daily Mail. "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."

After finding her son there, Nicole said that he had been crying and she immediately took him home. She explained that she suffers from osteoporosis, and it is often difficult for her to get up and move in the mornings, which is why her son is sometimes a bit late.

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After Hunter's photo went viral, the school promptly changed the lateness policy.

According to ABC13, the superintendent of the school, John Higgins, and the principal, Missy Fitzsimmons, began receiving an excessive amount of phone calls and messages from people after Hunter's photo was posted on Facebook.

Due to the influx of attention, both Higgins and Fitzsimmons decided to alter the lateness policy and get rid of the penalization for students when they show up late. 

tardy little boy in trouble school policy lateness dorioconnell from Getty Images | Canva Pro


"What I see is a reason for us to take a closer look and see if there's a better way to structure this learning time so that we can get kids caught up so that there's no actual or perceived isolation or stigmatizing," Higgins said, adding that they've also gotten rid of the cardboard divider as a punishment tool.

The school even created a supervised classroom that would serve as a way for students to catch up on lessons they may have missed due to being late.

"I think the emotional reaction would've been like any parent whenever you see a child in a unique learning environment, and it's your child, [it] can trigger some questions."

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Nicole was even gifted a new car after people heard about her story and the car troubles she was facing.

Not only did the viral Facebook post change the school's policy, but also caught the attention of AM 1440 radio personality Bill Meyer, who immediately worked to gift Nicole a new car.

Meyer told ABC News that he reached out to Lisa McClease-Kelly, who owns Kelly’s Automotive, which is located in Grants Pass, to see if she would be willing to repair the family’s Dodge Durango.

However, the repairs ended up costing more than the car itself, and eventually, a local company, Rapid Repo and Collections, offered to donate a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country van to the family.


"We thought we were going there to be told that our Durango was not going to be fixable at all,” Nicole told the news outlet. “We were so shocked, it doesn’t seem real. I’m trying to tell Hunter that this doesn’t just happen to you.”

The family was even gifted free oil changes for an entire year, and others in their community donated gas cards as well as gift cards to local restaurants. 

"We’re so thankful to all the people in our community that have just been so supportive,” Nicole acknowledged.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics.