A college district in japanese Pennsylvania confronted criticism after sending letters this month to greater than three dozen dad and mom warning that if their debt for college meals was not paid, their baby could possibly be positioned in foster care.

“Your baby has been despatched to high school on daily basis with out cash and with no breakfast and/or lunch,” learn the letter, which was signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal applications for the Wyoming Valley West College District. “This can be a failure to supply your baby with correct vitamin and you may be despatched to Dependency Court docket for neglecting your baby’s proper to meals. In case you are taken to Dependency courtroom, the consequence could also be your baby being faraway from your own home and positioned in foster care.”

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David Usavage, the vice chairman of the college board, stated on Saturday that when he first learn the letter, he had thought it was a “joke.”

“It was not permitted by anybody,” Mr. Usavage stated of the letter. “We’ve got a coverage that claims every part ought to undergo the superintendent.”

He stated the letter was written by Mr. Muth and the district’s lawyer, Charles R. Coslett. Mr. Usavage stated Mr. Muth has apologized. Makes an attempt to succeed in Mr. Muth and Mr. Coslett on Saturday had been unsuccessful.

Mr. Usavage stated the district, which is in Luzerne County, about 115 miles northwest of Philadelphia, was owed simply over $22,000 in breakfast and lunch debt.

He stated that 960 college students had a debt of 5 cents as much as $9.99. The dad and mom of the 40 college students who owe $10 or extra had been despatched the letter, which has acquired widespread consideration.

Mr. Usavage stated 4 college students owed greater than $440. College meals within the district value $1 to $2.70.

“We educate children as finest we will with what we’ve got,” he stated. “We’ve got a whole lot of profitable children, however by no means, by no means ever have we ever threatened anybody with this type of letter.”

It’s widespread for the district to mail letters urging dad and mom to pay money owed, however the language has all the time been “softer,” he stated.

The district is made up of seven faculties and serves about 5,000 kids, Mr. Usavage stated. “We’ve got by no means denied anybody as a result of they don’t have cash,” he stated. “We might by no means, ever permit a toddler to go hungry.”

Mr. Usavage stated he acquired about six telephone calls complaining concerning the letter. C. David Pedri, the county supervisor, wrote the district a letter, noting that foster care ought to by no means be seen as punitive.

“It weaponizes Luzerne County’s foster care system,” Mr. Pedri stated on Saturday. “It’s precisely what we’re not right here to do. The foster care system is right here to assist children who’re abused.”

“Taking a child out of a home is likely one of the most excessive issues foster care system has ever tried to do,” he added. “So that you don’t do it calmly. We might by no means take a child out of a home for failing to pay a faculty lunch invoice.”

Mr. Pedri stated the foster care system shouldn’t be utilized to “terrorize” folks into paying their lunch debt. “We’re not the boogey man in the midst of the night time coming to take your kids out of your own home for not paying your faculty lunch payments.”

Whereas it was unclear what, if something, may occur to Mr. Muth and Mr. Coslett, Mr. Usavage stated he wished to name a particular assembly with all faculty board members to debate the matter. He additionally stated within the subsequent faculty yr, beginning in August, that each one kids within the district would obtain free breakfast and lunch, no matter their want.

“I don’t need the individuals who dwell within the Wyoming Valley West College District to assume we’re so classless as to ship out a letter threatening dad and mom,” he stated. “I can guarantee you we is not going to take one baby or one dad or mum to any form of courtroom to get again the cash.”

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