Parents were outraged when a Pennsylvania school district threatened to foster care for unpaid lunch debt, and the district has now apologized. Taking things a step further, they have also settled all debts and now offer free lunch for all.
Wyoming Valley West School District was short on funds and went after parents with lunch debt. Attempting to crack down on parents sending their kids to school without food or lunch money, they sent out a rather harsh letter. However, they may have gone a bit too far.
The letters were sent out to about one thousand parents who owed lunch debt. The combined debt was over $22,000 and the school district needed that money. The parents who received letters had already received multiple notifications and had not paid up.
Even so, parents were shocked and appalled when they read the text. The letter informs parents who do not pay their debts that they can be sent to court for neglect. It goes further to tell parents that the court can potentially take the children away from their parents and put them into state care.
It reads: "You can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child's right to food. The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care."
There was a mass outrage from parents after receiving such a cold and threatening note. After so many parents spoke out, the district sent out an apology letter. It apologized for the tone of the previous one and assured parents that it did not mean any harm. It also made it clear that they had always provided meals for any children without, and never shamed any students.
Going further, Wyoming Valley West informed parents that the district now qualifies for a program that provides free breakfast and lunch for all students.
There was more too. Local businessman Todd Carmichael had seen the story on the news and offered to pay off the combined debt in full. Carmichael, now successful, grew up poor and remembered what it was like when he didn’t have lunch money. Thanks to him, this story has a happy ending!