A Pennsylvania school district is under fire for sending letters to parents in which they threatened the possible placement of their children in foster care over unpaid school lunch debt.
One of the letters sent to parents in the Wyoming Valley West School District on July 9, shared on social media and obtained by WBRE, stated that if the district did not receive a balance of $75.25, the parents could "be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child's right to food." It went on to read, "If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care."
"Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch. This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition," the letter, signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District, read in part. "Please remit payment as soon as possible to avoid being reported to the proper authorities."
The letter quickly drew ire on social media.
However, the threatening letter has also drawn the attention of Luzerne County officials.
“I found it very disturbing. Upsetting. It’s a total misrepresentation, a gross misrepresentation of what our agency does,” Joanne Van Saun, the county's Children and Youth Service executive director to the station. "It’s just not true. We do not remove children from families for unpaid bills... Never has this county removed a child from a home for unpaid bills and never will we."
Luzerne County Manager David Pedri was also troubled by the letter, and he has asked the school district to retract the letter.
“This is a gross misrepresentation as to what we do," Pedri said. "What you are really doing is weaponizing the good things we are doing in Luzerne County."
"Foster care is to be utilized only when absolutely needed — when a child has been abused, is in need or has suffered a tragedy," Pedri said in a statement to NBC News. "Our foster care system is NOT to be utilized to scare parents into paying school lunch bills."
According to WBRE, the Wyoming Valley West School District, who is attempting to collect approximately $20,000 worth of lunch debt, will send a more sensitive letter to parents regarding their children's debt.
Joseph Muth and David Pedri did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
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