A school district in Eastern Pennsylvania is being criticized for telling parents that their children could be sent into foster care if school lunch debts aren’t paid. In a letter, the Wyoming Valey West School District told parents that if their child has a balance of $75.25 and they don’t pay, the parents could be reported to Luzerne County dependency court.
Director of federal programs in the district Joseph Muth signed the letter, WBRE reported.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch. This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food,” it said.
If the parent is sent to court, their child could be taken away and “placed in foster care,” the letter continued.
Luzerne County Manager David Pedri publicly condemned the school district, saying “Foster care is to be utilized only when absolutely needed — when a child has been abused, is in need or has suffered a tragedy.” Luzerne County Children and Youth Services Executive Director Joanne Van Saun added that the letter was “a gross misrepresentation of what our agency does. We do not remove children from families for unpaid bills.”
This letter, sent on July 9th and then revealed on social media, was reportedly sent as an effort to collect about $20,000 worth of lunch debt that children in the school district have amassed. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) also gave his opinion on the issue, saying “these letters were callous and never should have happened.”
“Moving forward, the School District has an obligation to find an appropriate way to collect these funds, instead of using threats,” Casey added.
[Image via WBRE/screengrab]