The Wyoming Valley West School District in Pennsylvania wants parents to settle up their children’s school-lunch debts. Because the school system has seen a lot of parents racking up the amount owed, they have come forward with a threat that they think parents will listen to. If parents don’t make an honest effort to pay back all the money that kids owe the cafeteria, the school will report those parents to the proper authorities, so the kids could be taken away from them and put into foster care.
The Wyoming Valley West School District wants to collect on their $22,000 debt to parents by any means necessary. And the school district felt that threatening to send children into foster care would be a sure-fire way to get parents to react quickly. But the move might be blowing up in their face faster than they ever expected.
While the schools in the district have sent multiple letters back home with the kids, they have not gotten the money owed to them. That’s why the school district sent this final letter to the homes of about 1,000 children warning parents that if they don’t pay for the meals they take them to Dependency Court and make the parents fight to retain custody of their children.
The letter was written by Director of Federal Programs Joseph Muth, who thought to throw kids into foster care was his best idea yet.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” Muth wrote in the threatening 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.”
Muth’s letter “was harsh” and inflicted heart-palpitating stress onto cash-strapped parents. The average unpaid bill for students was about $22.
School board Vice President David Usavage had to step in and apologize on behalf of Muth’s threat.
“When I first read the letter, the top of my head almost came off,” Usavage said.
According to County Manager David Pedri and Children and Youth Director Joanne Van Saun, the Luzerne County Children and Youth foster care system gets accessed “when a child has been abused” or “a family has been struck by tragedy,” not as a hateful strategy “to scare families into paying school lunch bills.”
These county officials added, “Luzerne County Children and Youth should never be viewed as a punitive agency or weaponized to terrorize children and families. The agency provides support and makes available a number of resources to assist families and maintain children in their home. Luzerne County Children and Youth recognize that removing a child from the family causes significant trauma and should only be utilized when all attempts to preserve the family are unsuccessful.”
One thing is certain: you don’t want to leave a bill unpaid with Muth.
What do you think about how Muth of the Wyoming Valley West School District threatened to bring children into custody court to settle lunch debts?
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