Pennsylvania School District Threatens Foster Care Placement Over Unpaid Lunch Debt

The district is under heavy criticism, as many believe the letter wasn't appropriate.

This is a stock photo of a lunch tray
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The district is under heavy criticism, as many believe the letter wasn't appropriate.

Wyoming Valley West School District is making waves after sending letters to roughly 40 parents last week threatening to remove their children and place them in foster care unless lunch debts were taken care of.

The school district reported being owed over $22,000 in unpaid lunch debt.

The Pennsylvania school district is now facing heavy criticism as many believed the letter was uncalled for. During an interview with ABC News, Joseph Muth, the director of the district’s federal programs, admits the letter was a mistake.

“The letter was over the top and should not have been sent out,” he explained during the interview. He, however, clarified the district should consider looking into other methods of getting the debt cleared. Muth was unwilling to tell the media outlet how the extreme letter became approved to be sent out to parents.

Muth wasn’t the only member of the district to express disgust over the threatening letter, as the school board’s vice president, David Usavage, told WNEP that he found the letter to be cringe-worthy.

“The foster care issue, that just had me. I couldn’t believe that that’s what it said,” Usavage added.

Census Reporter confirms roughly 14 percent of the families within the school district live below the poverty line. This rate is 10 percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania.

Not every member of the school board who spoke to the media admitted to being against the letter. Charles Coslett, who is both a lawyer and a member of the board, strongly defended the letter when speaking to ABC News.

“It merely lays out the options available to the district if people continue to ignore their parental responsibility and the nutritional needs of their minor sons and daughters. These parents need to look in the mirror…This matter isn’t going away merely because delinquent debtors make Valley West the bad guy.”

Coslett insisted the letter was a necessary evil as the $20,000 of debt wasn’t just going to disappear on its own.

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Crystal FitzSimons, the director of school and out-of-school time programs, told ABC News that while she understands how important it is for the school to collect the massive amount of debt, she does not believe that is the only issue at hand. In fact, she believes the school district should be making more of an effort to reach out to families in need to make them aware of free and reduced meal programs available.

Many of those who have already gotten wind of the story have taken to Twitter to express outrage as they do not believe the school district has the authority to make that type of threat in the first place.

One outraged Twitter user noted it was important to remember that schools do not own the children they provide for. There were even some Twitter users that called for those involved in the letter to be fired for unnecessarily scaring families who likely can’t afford to pay the debt.