Joseph Muth, the director of federal programs for the school district, seems to be the man behind the letters and said it was a "last resort" and that the district is owed more than $22,000 by roughly 1,000 students. There were four parents that owed more than $450 each to the school.
The Wyoming Valley West School District in Pennsylvania reportedly sent out hundreds of letters to parents this week, telling them to either pay off their kids' lunch debt or else their children could go into foster care. The letters sent to the parents stated that: multiple letters sent home with your child, but since no payment was made yet, this was the last straw. Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch. The letter also stated that failure from a parent's end to provide their children with lunch could result in parents being sent to Dependency Court, according to CNN.
A Pennsylvania school district is coming under fire for sending letters to parents demanding they pay their school-lunch debt or risk having their children placed in foster care. https://t.co/9FWfUkK9Z7— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 20, 2019
If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care. Nearly 1000 parents were recipients of such shocking letters, which caused an uproar. Wyoming Valley's Cafeteria Purchase Charging and Insufficient Funds Policy doesn't really say or mention anything about sending kids to foster homes or parents potentially going to court for not bringing lunch fees.
How hard is it for this country to feed hungry kids? Cancel trump’s golf weekend. This isn’t hard.— Kathie Kostura (@kathiefoko) July 19, 2019
Although, the only thing that the policy does state is that families with a student account that reaches negative $10 or more will receive an automated call every Friday until the account is paid off. Joseph Muth, the director of federal programs for the school district, seems to be the man behind the letters that were sent to scores of parents, creating a sense of panic among them for something as trivial as lunch fees.
What better way to let a child know that we care than to sell the lunch debt to collections and impact the family's creditworthiness because they're poor or, even better, taking the child away from their parents— Dr. Seattle Space Sloth™️ (@SeattleSloth_) July 20, 2019
Muth told CNN affiliate WNEP that the letter was a "last resort" and that the district is owed more than $22,000 by roughly 1,000 students. There were four parents that owed more than $450 each to the school. Shockingly, Muth also said that the school was considering serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to students with delinquent accounts. Now, since the foster care system was brought up, the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services was indirectly dragged into the controversy.
I'd love for the district to show how much the government gives in funding per student for the school budget and actually explain how our public school lunch system gets to pass debt onto students.— 👍🏾🕊 (@KDMRMCMLXXXV) July 20, 2019
Joanne Van Saun, who runs the local agency, said she feels like the agency was weaponized to threaten families. "We exist to protect and preserve families. The only time a child is taken out is when they cannot be maintained safely in their home," she said. "Our agency has helped many children and families with paying rent and buying clothes. We know children do better when they're with their families."
School district should be sued. This is false. Children Services would not take children away for failure to pay lunch fees. First, they don't have the resources for that. Second, they would help the family to gain additional access to resources. Take them to court for this.— porter981 (@porter9811) July 20, 2019
She added that they have hard jobs, to begin with, and the letter just made it harder for them. "We're really there to help, and not destroy, their family," she said, while also adding that though she shares a good relationship with the school, she can't help but say that she felt "blindsided" by the letter. "The way they handled it was totally inappropriate, unnecessary and could've easily been resolved through so many different avenues," she said.
Breakfast and lunch should be included in the school day for all kids. Nutrition and education go hand and hand.— shannon (@introvertedpnw) July 20, 2019
In a letter to the district's superintendent, Van Saun wrote: The Luzerne County Children and Youth Foster Care System are NOT utilized to scare families into paying school lunch bills. Apparently, lunch shaming is a thing and the Wyoming Valley West School District is not the first to do so. A few other schools have threatened students in their own way to make sure their dues were paid! But, families' inability to pay for school lunches is becoming an increasing problem.
The quotes from the superintendent justifying this harassment are vile. Even after a warning from social services about lying to parents, they still think they did nothing wrong.— STOP LUSTING AFTER NAZIS. ✡️☭🌹 (@thespinsterymc) July 20, 2019