A Pennsylvania school district has reportedly walked back on claims that parents would lose custody of their children if they didn’t pay off their school lunch debts.
The Citizens’ Voice reported that the Wyoming Valley West School District made the controversial comments in an attempt to recoup $22,467 in delinquent school lunch bills owed by a total of about 1,000 parents. Director of Federal Programs Joseph Muth said the school district recently sent out about 40 letters, which also warned that indebted students could be placed in foster care for nonpayment.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” Muth reportedly wrote in the letter. “This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition…the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care…please remit payment as soon as possible to avoid being reported to the proper authorities.”
According to Erie News Now, the controversial letter told parents that the school district can take them to dependency court, where they could lose their children to the foster care system on the grounds that they’re not feeding their children.
Officials originally defended the letter, with school district solicitor Charles Coslett telling the news outlet that it did the job of getting the parents’ attention.
“I mean if you think about it you’re here this morning because some parent’s crying foul over he or she doesn’t want to pay a debt,” he commented. “A debt attributed to feeding their kids. How shameful!”
The Voice reported that the school district reversed its decision after Luzerne County officials implored them to “cease and desist” from referring to foster care when corresponding with students’ guardians regarding lunch bills.
Luzerne County Children and Youth Services executive director Joanne Van Saun told WBRE that she was found the letter “disturbing,” adding that the agency, if anything, would work with other organizations to provide financial assistance for these parents.
“It’s just not true. We do not remove children from families for unpaid bills,” she said.
School board Vice President David Usavage told the news outlet that they’ll abide by county officials’ instructions and sent apology letters to the parents who received the initial correspondence.
Usavage noted that the students who had an unpaid school lunch bill owed an average of $22. WBRE reported that parents still face legal action from the school district, which includes having liens filed against their personal property.
[Featured image: WBRE video screengrab]