School officials in northeastern Pennsylvania are receiving backlash for sending out a threatening letter to the parents of students stating that their kids might be placed in foster care if their delinquent meal debts were not paid.
About 40 families in the Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the state’s poorest school districts, received the letter earlier this month, according to NPR. The tactic was a last ditch effort to recoup around $22,000 in outstanding breakfast and lunch debt, according to Joseph Mazur, president of the district’s board of education.
The outstanding amount is a drop in the bucket considering the $80 million annual school district budget.
“By mail, email, robo calls, personal calls and letters,” Mazur told NPR of the efforts the district made, yet nothing worked.
That’s when school officials decided an alarming and harassing letter was their next approach.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” the letter, signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District, reads in part. “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.”
Mazur told NPR he sees nothing wrong with the letter, adding that the scare tactic worked.
“I think you have to pay your bills. I mean, I’ve been paying my bills all my life. So has everybody else. I mean, sometimes you have to do without something for yourself if you want to raise your kids and see that they’re taken care of,” Mazur said, reported NPR.
“Was the letter a little strong? Maybe yes,” Mazur said. “But it did work, because they’re paid now.”
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said the letter was horrifying.
“No child should have to imagine the horror of being ripped away from their parents because their family is struggling economically,” Casey tweeted. “These letters were callous and should never have happened.”