school lunch

School Threatens To Put Kids In Foster Care Unless Parents Pay Their Lunch Debt

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that kids deserve to eat lunch during their school day. It seems like a noncontroversial premise, but school lunch debts are a growing crisis for today’s students.

As Eater explains, some school districts have taken to school lunch debt-shaming for children with outstanding balances — but one Pennsylvania district is taking a lunch debt to a truly appalling level.

WBNS-10 reports that the Wyoming Valley West School District has sent letters to parents, threatening to report them to dependency court for “neglecting your child’s right to food.” The district is attempting to collect about $20,000 in debt money.

The letter reads, in part, that “Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch. 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. 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 also states the outstanding debt, and urges parents to pay the debt “as soon as possible to avoid being reported to the proper authorities.” It was signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the WVW school district.

Yes, you read that correctly: families are being threatened with placing children to foster care over a school lunch debt.

The letter was quickly condemned by, well, everyone with a conscience. The New York Times reports that the Luzerne county manager, C. David Pedri, blasted the letter, saying it “weaponizes” Child Protective Services.

“Taking a kid out of a house is one of the most extreme things that a foster care system has ever tried to do,” he told the Times. “We would never take a kid out of a house for failing to pay a school lunch bill. We’re not the boogey man in the middle of the night coming to take your children out of your house for not paying your school lunch bills.”

On Twitter, users expressed their shock and anger, with many noting that it is another example of criminalizing poverty. Several other users expressed the painful irony of denying parents the right to a safe, legal abortion, while threatening to remove children from homes over a food debt.