A School District In Pennsylvania Turns Down Offer From Local Businessman To Pay Off School Lunch Debts

July 25, 2019  |  

Black students eating lunch in school cafeteria

Source: JGI/Tom Grill / Getty

The efforts of a Pennsylvania businessman were denied after he reportedly offered to pay off $22,467 of a school district’s lunch debt in order to thwart the reported plans of administrators who threatened to place students in foster care over the unpaid debts.

Two weeks ago, a widely circulated letter sent to parents from the Wyoming Valley West school district disturbingly laid out a plan of action for parents with unpaid lunch debts.

“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” the July 9 letter states. “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 continues. “Please remit payment as soon as possible to avoid being reported to the proper authorities.”

In an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer, La Colombe Coffee Roasters CEO Todd Carmichael shared his frustration over what he referred to as “shaming” and burdensome in the eyes of parents and local taxpayers. Michael stated that he received a firm “no” from the school’s school board president Joseph Mazur.

“On Monday, we talked to School Board President Joseph Mazur to determine the best way to transfer the funds in order to wipe the slate clean and restore dignity to the 1,000 families who received these threatening letters,” Carmichael wrote.

“Shockingly, Mr. Mazur turned us down. I can’t explain or justify his actions. Let me be clear: we offered over $22,000 with no strings attached. And he said ‘No,’” Carmichael continued.

“Mr. Mazur, I am offering to pay this debt in full. By saying no, you are not just shaming families who elected you, but you are placing this burden on WVW taxpayers, and that is completely unfair,” he added.

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey called the school district’s actions “callous” on Twitter and urged administrators to cease the threats of foster care.

The situation is shockingly similar to a story we reported on in May, where a school in Rhode Island served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to students with unpaid balances and denied the efforts of a local businesswoman who wanted to help pay off a fraction of the debt.

Low-income students have again become collateral in the fight for who gets to eat and who is objectified for doing so. In the Wyoming Valley West School District, 64% of the students live below the poverty line, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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