After Lunch Money Threats, Pennsylvania School District Reverses Course
By Kate Feldman
A Pennsylvania school district that threatened parents who owed money for their kids' lunch has reversed course and is now accepting a generous donation to cover the debt.
The Wyoming Valley West School District, about three hours north of Philadelphia, faced widespread backlash over the last several weeks after sending warning letters, written by director of federal programs Joseph Muth, home to parents that threatened to take them to court "for neglecting your child's right to food."
"The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care," the letter read.
Muth told WNEP that the total debt added up to about $22,000 from about 1,000 students, including four who owed more than $450 each, and called the letter a "last resort" after other attempts to contact the parents.
But when a Philadelphia businessman, La Colombe Coffee co-founder Todd Carmichael, offered to wipe out the debt, school board president Joseph Mazur rejected him.
"No strings attached. We don't want an airport named after us. We'd just like this debt to be forgiven. You know a lot of these people are struggling," Carmichael told WNEP. "They won't take our calls. They won't take anything."
Now, the school board has changed its mind.
"It wasn't the intention of the district to harm or inconvenience any of the families of our school district," Mazur wrote in a letter Wednesday night.
"All meals served to students were chosen by the students from our regular menu. No shaming occurred and no alternate meals were provided," he added. "Please accept our sincere apology for any harm or inconvenience the letter caused."
Mazur did not, however, explain why he and the board initially rejected the donations.
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