Parents in Pennsylvania are outraged after the Wyoming Valley West School District threatened that their children could end up in foster care if they do not pay their overdue school lunch bills.

What Happened

The one-page letter that was posted to social media is the equivalent of economical shaming. On top of already having concerns over financial obligations, the letter added the threat of having a struggling parent’s child taken due to financial shortcomings. In the letter that was publicly shared, the parent was threatened with Child Protective Services for an outstanding bill of $75.25.

This letter is to inform you that your child (redacted) has been purchasing breakfast and/or lunch at (redacted) School. After review of our records, there is a negative balance of $75.25 on your child’s account.

At this time, multiple letters have been sent home with your child and no payments have been made to their account. 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 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. To view your child’s account please visit “Parent Portal: to review your child’s purchase history and balance information.

At this time, please remit payment as soon as possible to avoid being reported to the proper authorities. Also, free and reduced appilications can be filled out at any time during the school year. This is if you have yet to fill out an application or if your financial situation has changed.

Joseph Muth
Director of Federal Programs
Wyoming Valley West School District

Letter From Wyoming Valley School District
Wyoming Valley West School District Threatens CPS For Unpaid Lunch Bill Letter

Luzerne County

Luzerne County’s manager and child welfare agency director wrote the superintendent asking the district to stop making what they have deemed as false claims. Children and Youth Services Department claim the threat is a troubling misrepresentation of how the agency and the foster care program operates. On the other side of the argument, Charles Coslett, Wyoming Valley West’s lawyer told WYOU-TV he did not believe the letter was threatening.

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.

Charles Coslett Via WYOU-TV

After receiving complaints, district officials have said they plan on sending out a less threatening letter next week. The district’s federal programs director Joseph Muth ⁠— who’s signature is seen at the bottom of the letter to parents ⁠— said they considered giving children with unpaid accounts peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The district decided not to go through with the idea after receiving legal warning against it.

School district officials say they are exploring other options for legally going after parents with outstanding bills. A few legal options may include district court complaints or placing liens on properties. The district claims there are over $20,000 in outstanding bills currently. Four parents are said to owe at least $450 apiece. For the 2018-19 school year, four elementary and middle schools in the district underwrote the free lunch program. Officials believe some parents are not paying out of protest. In the coming year, the district will qualify for funding that would provide free lunches for all students.


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