WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County school district is getting a lot of flack regarding a letter sent to parents.
The letter demands they pay delinquent lunch bills for their children or face the risk of having their children placed in foster care. And some of that flack is coming from Luzerne County officials.
Luzerne County officials say there is no way they would be part of removing children from their homes over unpaid lunch bills or any unpaid bill for that matter. They are demanding a retraction letter from the Wyoming Valley West School District.
“I found it very disturbing. Upsetting. It’s a total misrepresentation, a gross misrepresentation of what our agency does,” Luzerne County Children and Youth Services executive director Joanne Van Saun said.
Van Saun and Luzerne County Manager David Pedri say they were stunned when they read the letter that was sent to parents in the Wyoming Valley West School District. It tells the parents they could be taken to dependency court and have their children removed from their homes if they do not pay their delinquent lunch bills. The district is trying to collect some $20,000 worth of delinquent lunch payments.
“It’s just not true. We do not remove children from families for unpaid bills,” Van Saun said.
Luzerne County Children and Youth Services would be part of any foster care placement and they say the scenario, the threat, laid out in the school district letter just does not happen.
“I have been employed for Luzerne County Children and Youth Services for 33 years. Never has this county removed a child from a home for unpaid bills and never will we,” Van Saun said.
Van Saun also offered up this idea: “If we learned about this problem we would have collaborated with Wyoming Valley West to come up with other ways to meet those bills.”
Thursday afternoon, the county sent a letter to the Valley West School District.
“This is a gross misrepresentation as to what we do. What you are really doing is weaponizing the good things we are doing in Luzerne County. I’m asking the school district to retract the letter,” Pedri said.
And that is exactly what is happening. The Wyoming Valley West School District says it will send out a second, softer letter to parents who are delinquent in paying their children’s lunch bills.
We’re told parents face legal action from the district, including a complaint in district court and having liens filed against their personal property.