A Pennsylvania school district is threatening to take children away from their parents who failed to pay down the students’ school lunch deficits, the media has learned.
Wyoming Valley West School District, which is located in north central Pennsylvania about two-and-a-half hours west of Philadelphia, fired off hundreds of letters this week. The letter informed parents who had lunch debts to pay up or face the prospect of having children snatched from them and sent into foster care, according to CNN.
The school district claims it previously sent out a notice that “multiple letters [were] sent home with your child” and that no payments had been made.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch .. If you are taken to Dependency court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care,” the letter said according to CNN.
The district is taking aggressive measures to reconcile $22,000 in debt from more than 1,000 students. The television station says four parents owe at least $450 each.
When the letter went viral, Wyoming Valley West district officials backtracked and stated it would send less threatening communications in the upcoming week. However, School district officials say they plan to pursue other legal avenues to get the lunch money, such as filing a district court complaint or placing liens on properties.
Joanne Van Saun, head of the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, told CNN on Saturday she feels her agency was “weaponized” to threaten families.
“We exist to protect and preserve families. The only time a child is taken out [of their home] is when they cannot be maintained safely in their home,” she said. “Our agency has helped many children and families with paying rent and buying clothes. We know children do better when they’re with their families.”
Wyoming Valley West school officials did not respond to multiple media inquiries seeking confirmation of the threats.