Board Members Criticize Threatening Lunch Money Letter

KINGSTON, Pa. -- Five of nine members of the Wyoming Valley West School Board tell Newswatch 16 the district should not have threatened to place kids in foster care if their parents fail to pay their lunch tabs.

But the district's solicitor has doubled down, claiming some parents need the threat of losing their kids to get them to pay up.

School officials tell us the district has collected more than $500 of the $22,000 owed in lunch money since the controversial letter was sent.

Some anonymous donors have chipped in.

Board members tell us they were blindsided by that letter's threatening language.

Wyoming Valley West School Board vice president David Usavage cringes at the letter's warning that in court, "the result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care."

"The foster care issue, that just had me," said Usavage. "I couldn't believe that that's what it said."

Four other Wyoming Valley West School Board members agree, as does school administrator Joe Muth who signed that letter sent out to about 1,000 parents.

"It could have been toned down. I don't know how to describe it other than think in writing, it could have been toned down a notch," Muth said.

Wyoming Valley West solicitor Charlie Coslett stands by the letter. Coslett says he's forced 50 families to dependency court for truancy where parents risked having their children placed in foster care because their kids kept on skipping school.

"Failure to properly provide for your minor child's nutritional needs certainly on the scale of relativity seems to be a more serious offense," said Coslett.

Critics say if a parent doesn't pay a child's lunch bill, it doesn't mean kids are malnourished. By law, the schools must feed them no matter how much their families owe.

"This to me is terrorizing children and families. And it was just so unnecessary," Luzerne County Children and Youth Services director Joanne Van Saun said.

 Van Saun says the letter wrongly assumes all families can pay. She pointed to a letter sent to a mother who owed $75.

"Where did that $75 go? Is it going to cigarettes? Is it going to alcohol? We don't know. That's right, we don't know that," Coslett added.

Wyoming Valley West board members believe the district should continue efforts to collect more than $22,000 that is still owed.

Usavage says future letters will be less threatening.

"If someone saw it before it was sent out, someone would have red-lined it and said, 'let's take these two lines out,'" Usavage said.

The Wyoming Valley West School Board now qualifies for enough money to provide free lunches to all students for the upcoming school year.

This year, the district gave free lunches to four elementary and middle schools, and officials think some parents did not pay as a form of protest.

16 comments

  • fortisveritas

    🇺🇸Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Oh look, comments have disappeared again.

    Do you fill your car with gas and then drive off without paying for it? Do you fill your cart with groceries and just wheel it out to the parking lot, not stopping at the cashier? This is theft, plain and simple.

    Pay your bills or make arrangements to make payments. It’s called being a responsible adult.

    Show your kids how to be responsible and how the decisions you make in life direct your course, and how bad decisions have consequences.

    Stop being victims of your own poor choices and having other people pay for your mistakes.

    • fortisveritas

      So people that don’t pay their bills are – handsome?

      I say he should get a raise for having the ⚽️ 🏈 to do what’s needed to hold deadbeats accountable and to be fair to those that pay their bills.

      You people complaining probably expect things for free too.

  • Robert Carande

    If I ran such a school district NOTHING would be mailed out unless it passed my desk and got my explicit permission.

    • fortisveritas

      Thanks for appointing yourself judge, jury, and high executioner. Can I please post this message your highness?

      • Sue Phillips

        well if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black I don’t know what is!!! all your comments have been judgments of people you likely don’t know and you really don’t know the circumstances that lead to them owing that bill. Could there have been an emergency of some kind or something else that prevented them having the money??? As the bible says… judge not that ye be not judged.

      • fortisveritas

        So almost 1,000 people had some kind of emergency that prevented them from paying a $20 bill? Please.

        You’re right, I don’t know any of these people personally. But I do know people in general – and there is a very small percentage of people that are genuinely ‘poor’ and struggle paying their bills. For those people I have empathy and charity for. The rest either choose to not pay their bills or have consistently made poor life decisions that put them in debt.

        The Bible also says: “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes” and “Let no debt remain outstanding”.

  • Chris Thorne

    If you can’t afford to pay for your little rugrats lunch tab then yeah, you shouldn’t have them. If you’re not paying for your kids bills, yup, you shouldn’t have them. I have no problem with All kids being removed from deadbeat parents.

  • fortisveritas

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Oh look, comments have disappeared again.

    Do you fill your car with gas and then drive off without paying for it? Do you fill your cart with groceries and just wheel it out to the parking lot, not stopping at the cashier? This is theft, plain and simple.

    Pay your bills or make arrangements to make payments. It’s called being a responsible adult.

    Show your kids how to be responsible and how the decisions you make in life direct your course, and how bad decisions have consequences.

    Stop being victims of your own poor choices and having other people pay for your mistakes.

    12 4 Rate This
    JULY 19, 20

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