Luzerne County, PA — Wyoming Valley West School District parents, whose school lunch accounts were delinquent, received a disturbing letter last week threatening to have their children kidnapped by Child and Youth Services if they don't pay their past due balances.
The letter sent to over 1,000 parents reads in part:
You can be sent to dependency 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 which one parent equated to school-sponsored bullying drew immediate outrage from the community as well as Luzerne County officials who immediately demanded the school retract its letter and explicit threat to steal kids away from their parents. Luzerne County Children and Youth Services executive director Joanne Van Saun said:
I found it very disturbing. Upsetting. It's a total misrepresentation, a gross misrepresentation of what our agency does.
Unfazed by angry phone calls from parents, and unmoved by Luzerne County criticisms, Wyoming Valley West School District's lawyer Charles Coslett pushed back saying:
Hopefully, that gets their attention and it certainly did, didn't it? I mean, if you think about it, you're here this morning because some parents cried foul because he or she doesn't want to pay a debt attributed to feeding their kids. How shameful.
In another interview with ABC News, Coslett doubled down on the district's threats and intimated the kidnapping option is still on the table.
It merely lays out the options available to the district if people continue to ignore their parental responsibility and the nutritional needs of their minor sons and daughters…These parents need to look in the mirror…This matter isn't going away merely because delinquent debtors make Valley West the bad guy.
Coslett's comments which one could characterize as insolent were countered by county officials who claimed the school system is simply lying about the power the schools have to steal kids. The county manager and the child welfare agency director penned their own letter sent to the school superintendent telling the school system to stop lying to parents. According to PennLive:
Luzerne County's manager and child welfare agency director have written the superintendent, insisting the district stop making what they call false claims. Their letter calls the district's actions troubling and a misrepresentation of how the Children and Youth Services Department and its foster care program operate.