LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — After a threatening letter was sent to parents who are delinquent in paying their children’s lunch bills, a Pennsylvania school district has issued an apology, reversed course and will now accept an offer to pay off that debt.
“I think this is one of those situations where it got ahead of us and I think it’s brought a lot of people’s attention to making sure they are paying their bills and to not let a situation like this happen again,” state representative Aaron Kaufer said.
Kaufer says the letter sent to parents in the Wyoming Valley West School District should never have seen the light of day. It threatens to place children into foster homes unless their parents make good on unpaid lunch bills.
The letter captured national attention. Last week, the district admitted the letter was harsh, and on Wednesday, the district issued a letter of apology on its website. It apologizes for the tone of the letter and any harm or inconvenience it may have caused for families.
“This whole story has taken on a life of its own and it should have never started with the letter that went out originally. It was frustrating to start from that point but, I think there are a lot of people here who are part of the working-class poor of our area. People who did not qualify for these programs, but some of them are families really struggling,” Kaufer said.
And after first refusing an offer from a business owner, La Colombe Coffee from Philadelphia, to pay off the $22,000 lunch debt, Kaufer convinced them to reverse course and accept the offer of help.
“At the end of the day, when someone offers money to our school district and someone is willing to make a contribution to our educational foundation which is where this money is going, I don’t know how you say no to someone willing to contribute money to help out our school district,” Kaufer said.
And Kaufer says this scenario will not be possible next year.
“Although, my understanding is that because of qualification, the entire school district will now be part of the free and reduced meal program. That no one will be paying starting next year,” Kaufer said.
Wyoming Valley West officials have said that about 1,000 parents are behind in their lunch bills, but they say only 39 letters were sent out to families who are constantly delinquent.
The district’s solicitor was asked to and agreed on Thursday to resign for his role in the controversy.