- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - Southern Oregon businesses have donated a minivan to a family whose 6-year-old son was publicly punished for being late to school when his mother said her health issues and car trouble were to blame.

A photo posted on Facebook of young Hunter Cmelo (cuh-MEL-oh) sitting isolated behind a cardboard screen in a school lunchroom generated outrage and heated phone calls and commentary.

The school system in Grants Pass posted officers outside Lincoln Elementary School for a few days and said it won’t use that sort of punishment again.

Kelly Automotive owner Lisa McClease Kelly says businesses in Medford and Grants Pass got together to provide a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, refurbish it and provide some free gas and free oil changes, the Grants Pass Daily Courier (https://bit.ly/1BbdKdu) reported.

That was an alternative to fixing the family’s Dodge Durango, which mechanics reported to be in poor shape.

When Nicole Garloff and Mark Cmelo showed up Tuesday evening to retrieve what they thought would be their repaired vehicle, they found the nicer minivan.

“It’s just amazing. We’re really grateful,” Garloff said as she loaded Hunter and 3-year-old daughter Savannah into the van.

Garloff said car trouble was one reason she’s been late getting her son to school. The family lives only four blocks from Lincoln, but she said she has health problems that keep her from walking Hunter to school.

David Stepp, a supervisor at Rapid Repo & Collections in Medford, said he and his wife looked up the incident on Facebook.

“I was so shocked and heartbroken when I saw the photo. I actually lost sleep over it,” he said. “A picture says a thousand words, and though you couldn’t see the little guy’s face in the picture, his posture told it all, and that’s what really bothered me.”

The school system says pupils now will serve detention in a separate room. Superintendent John Higgins wouldn’t discuss whether Principal Missy Fitzsimmons faces discipline, saying that’s a personnel matter.


Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com

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