Pennsylvania School Threatens To Put Kids in Foster Care Over Unpaid Lunch Money
families owed the district $22,000 in outstanding breakfast and lunch payments
A Pennsylvania public school district has threatened parents failing to pay their children's lunch money that they could be placed in foster care if debts are not settled.
The Wyoming Valley West School District sent around 1,000 letters to students who had $10 or more in meal debt.
According to school district officials, the families owed the district $22,000 in outstanding breakfast and lunch payments.
The letter read:
"Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a 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.
"If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care."
The letter was signed by Joseph Muth, the director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District.
Muth argued that the letter was a "last resort" and that the district was considering serving students with overdue accounts peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, according to WNEP.
Four accounts showed families that owed more than $450 each, according to WNEP.
Joseph Mazur, the president of the district's board of education, said that owed debts were "attempted to be reclaimed by officials by mail, email, robo calls, personal calls and letters," but to no avail.
Mazur defended the letter threatening foster care after criticism from county officials.
"I think you have to pay your bills. I mean, I've been paying my bills all my life. So has everybody else. I mean, sometimes you have to do without something for yourself if you want to raise your kids and see that they're taken care of," Mazur said.
No child should have to imagine the horror of being ripped away from their parents because their family is struggling economically. These letters were callous and should never have happened. https://t.co/TVbsh2XIRy— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) July 19, 2019
In a tweet, Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said the letters are "callous."
"No child should have to imagine the horror of being ripped away from their parents because their family is struggling economically," Casey wrote.
Bill Vinsko, a lawyer in northeastern Pennsylvania, acknowledged that t families in the region struggle to make ends meet on low-paying jobs on top of a fragile tax base.
"And then they get a letter saying their kids might be taken away from them; it's petrifying for them," Vinsko said.
"That is really scary for parents who are trying to work for the best interest of their kids."
Wyoming Valley West School District is among the poverty-stricken districts in Pennsylvania.
Mazur stated that the $22,000 unpaid debts could ease the financial burden on the school district.
"We are in the process of trying to save money wherever we can," Mazur said.
"We have laid off some employees. We have reduced some of our curricula. And we're looking anywhere we can save. I don't care if it's $1,000 or $20,000."