Earlier this month, some parents of students in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, opened letters from the Wyoming Valley West School District with a threat: Pay your school lunch debt, or lose your kids. "Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch," the letter read. "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. The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care."
According to the local CBS affiliate, the district is reportedly trying to recoup up to $20,000 in outstanding debt, with four parents owing at least $450 each. But Luzerne County Children and Youth Services executive director Joanne Van Saun described the letter as "a gross misrepresentation of what our agency does" to local news station WYOU. "It’s just not true. We do not remove children from families for unpaid bills," she said. "If we learned about this problem, we would have collaborated with Wyoming Valley West to come up with other ways to meet those bills."
Pennsylvania's Democratic senator Bob Casey decried the letters, saying, "No child should have to imagine the horror of being ripped away from their parents because their family is struggling economically." Nationwide, school districts carry an average of $2,500 for unpaid student lunches, up from $2,000 per district since 2016. In some districts, the total debt is as high as $856,000, according to the School Nutrition Association. The total compensation for American CEOs, meanwhile, grew last year by 7 percent, to an average of $12 million per executive.
Charles Coslett, a lawyer for Wyoming Valley West, told reporters he didn't consider the letter threatening. He added, "Hopefully, that gets their attention and it certainly did, didn’t it? I mean, if you think about it, you’re here this morning because some parents cried foul because he or she doesn’t want to pay a debt attributed to feeding their kids. How shameful."
Originally Appeared on GQ