by Daisy Luther
You’ve probably heard about the school board in Pennsylvania who sent a letter to parents with overdue lunch money tabs threatening to take their children away because of the debt. But did you hear that a local CEO offered to pay off every dime of the bills and the school board refused to take it?
They’d actually prefer to tear children away from their families.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is about the money. It’s not. It’s about power. It’s about humiliating and terrorizing poor families.
UPDATE: After a massive public outcry and the power of the internet, the school board has opted to accept Todd Carmichael’s kind offer to pay the overdue lunch bills.
How this whole thing got started
Dozens of families opened the most shocking letter of their lives last week when the Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the poorest districts in the state, attempted to collect overdue lunch money tabs by threatening to have their children removed from the home if they didn’t pony up immediately.
The letter was only sent to the “worst” offenders – meaning those whose children had a meal debt of $10 or more.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without a breakfast and/or lunch,” the 200-word letter read. “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.” (source)
The letter was signed by Joseph Muth, director of federal programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District. Joseph Mazur, the president of the district’s board of education, has defended the letter because “it worked.”
Mazur emphasized that despite some students not having enough money to afford breakfast and lunch, the school district still fed all the children.
“Every poor kid got a meal,” Mazur said. “If the Board of Directors was mean and cruel they’d just honestly say, ‘Stop the lunches,’ but we didn’t.” (source)
Mazur claimed that the school district’s $8 million budget was stretched thin and that they were desperate to claim the money owed by parents.
A philanthropic Pennsylvania businessman TRIED to step in.
If the school board is truly desperate, then why on earth would they turn down a businessman’s offer to pay the entire $22,000 debt?
Todd Carmichael, chief executive and co-founder of La Colombe Coffee in Philadelphia, says he grew up poor and knew what it felt like to be hungry. So Carmichael, in true voluntaryist spirit, offered to take care of the outstanding lunch money bills.
In a letter sent to papers in the Wilkes-Barre area on Monday, Carmichael said his offer was motivated in part because he received free meals as a child growing up near Spokane, Washington.
“I know what it means to be hungry,” Carmichael wrote. “I know what it means to feel shame for not being able to afford food.” (source)
But Joseph Mazur, who says the school district is cutting every possible cost to stay afloat, turned down the offer.
Why would a desperate school district turn down a check for 22,000?
Because Mazur believes “the money is owed by parents who can afford to pay.”
Maybe they can, but maybe they can’t. Sometimes it can look like your financial situation is just fine, but meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out how to feed a family of 4 on one box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s hard to get all your bills paid when you’re flat broke – sometimes even impossible. It’s terribly presumptive for him to believe he knows the inner financial workings of each family with a lunch money bill.
Furthermore, his refusal to accept Mr. Carmichael’s offer tells me that this isn’t about the money, as Mazur has proclaimed. It’s about wielding power over the parents of these kids. And about making them ashamed.
As for the Wyoming Valley West School District’s Coslett, who is also representing the board as their lawyer, it seems like shaming might just be part of the calculus. Referring to a letter received by a mother who owed $75, he told WNEP, “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,” he said. (source)
Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, people should pay their bills and pay for their children’s lunches. But a state’s department of child welfare is not a collection agency, nor should it ever be threatened over an unpaid bill. Mazur is endorsing the kidnapping of children, regardless of the trauma, it would cause them, over bills as low as $10.
Keep in mind that some parents owe several hundred dollars, which might be tough to scrape up all at once. Even though Mazur is confident the parents can pay, the school district is so poor that next year’s budget contains funding for the breakfasts and lunches of every child in the school. Every single one.
Since the poverty level among students has risen in the district recently, new federal nutrition assistance is expected district-wide to cover meals for all students, regardless of their family’s economic means.
Mazur said that new support should stay in place for the next five years, and he is hoping the letter controversy will soon be put to rest. (source)
The utter audacity of Joseph Mazur’s power trip blows my mind.
Not all officials are behind this effort.
This outrageous move is not supported by other local officials.
County officials criticized the threat of foster care placement, pointing out that the foster care system should be used only when children are abused or in danger, not as a weapon to collect money.
“The foster care system should never be viewed as a punitive agency or weaponized to terrorize children and families,” said Luzerne County Manager David Pedri, who noted that county officials have asked the school district to stop using the language contained in the letter. (source)
The Luzerne County Child Welfare Agency is not impressed either.
Luzerne County’s manager and child welfare agency director wrote to Superintendent Irvin DeRemer, demanding the district stop making what it called false claims. DeRemer has not returned messages in recent days. (source)
The offer to get the lunch bills paid still stands.
As for Mr. Carmicheal, he still wants to help.
Carmichael said Tuesday in a phone interview that his offer stands.
“I’m just going to hold on and I’m going to continue to be optimistic and see if we can’t do something,” Carmichael said. “Even if you’re a difficult person, we’re in. What can we do?” (source)
Mazur still doesn’t think the threatening letter is any big deal.
“I think this whole thing has just been blown out of proportion,” Mazur said. (source)
I don’t think the proportion of “this whole thing” will be significant enough while Mazur still has his job. And given the national fall-out from his approach, it might not be long before he discovers what unemployment feels like.
Another way to punish the poor for being poor. Just more puritanical BS by the “moral” right. Perhaps, if one believes the stories in the Bible, instead of feeding the 5000 with a few loaves & fishes, Jesus should have had the children in the crowd removed from their families.
What does this have to do with the Bible?
Stop lumping everyone from one group together in generalizations because it sounds good.
If they were from “the left” what would your assumption be then?
Danielle,IF you had ever read THE BIBLE you’d know what it has to do with the LORD AND HIS BIBLE,but since you haven’t you’ll find out the hard way,in a slave labor camp,MAYBE you should consider educating your self before its to late…WAR IS COMING TO AMERICA over this sort of thing…..
Please don’t blame “the Right” for this! I’m a conservative, but I think this is a reprehensible abuse of power, and these families, and most of us would.
The fact that the school initially turned down the offer of financial assistance begs the question of why….is there anything going on in this school district that they would not want scrutinized by a third party (such as a lawyer acting for the businessman?). Or is this just a case of “authority gone mad”?
Either way, please don’t lump this jerk in with the rest of us!
No, this isnt the doing of the “moral right”…whats wrong with you anyway ?
This is the doing of a mean spirited school board official, who is power tripping…..its so sad to see.
PA should not point their fingers at anyone when they have been caught using harmful technology against children, according to Forbes. https://bit.ly/30Mekjw.
Least we not forget that the “people” in fact the very people living there “ELECTED” this pile of garbage.
When you allow your nation’s leadership, in any capacity, to be Satanic Worshipers, Child Molesters, Homosexuals, and purely Fking evil people, then it shouldn’t surprise the public when they expose their evil and bile hatred towards the world.
But, sadly we live in a nation full of circus freaks, political zombies, devil worshipers, and a population who proclaim their intelligence, yet aren’t sure which bathroom to use day to day.
Take it from someone who grew up in Foster Care……………….when I was 15-16-17 it was very hard to find a home for me. In saying this, 22,000.00 owed? That tells me there are quite a few kids possibly going into foster care…..by the time they find a home for all of them, they will have graduated by then. What a bunch of A-holes in that school board! People need to wake up and pay attention to who they put in office, even at the local level! It seems every year the school district tries to flex more political power and rights over the children in defiance of the parents wishes. As if the children belong to them. Our kids attend public school now and are subject to indoctrination instead of education.
Once CPS (Child Prostitution Services) gets a hold of these kids, they will never be seen again.
It happens far too frequently.
This is about feeding the human trafficking industry. Simple as that.
You know, there was a day I would have said you were off your rocker.
Today is not that day.
I may be mistaken, but isn’t there a law that states that if adequate compensation for a debt is refused that debt is then considered paid? If that’s the case, then this district just wiped clean everyone’s debt by refusing the CEO’s payment.
Shylock, the Merchant of Venice, refused legitimate payment of debt because he wanted his “pound of flesh.” But he couldn’t get his pound of flesh without committing murder. He ended up with nothing. You would think it should be common sense.
Good one ! Thanks for pointing this out !
Love reading your posts. So informative.
Homeschooling is a much saner option, I can’t imagine sending kids to these type of schools that threaten parental power.
I live in NE PA and the letter was badly worded and resent. The WVW school system is correct in that the families should be paying. The students and parents are taking advantage of the taxpayers by not paying for lunch. These people are not desolate. I agree the school should not take a donation for the bill. This does not teach responsibility to either parents nor students. ie: there is no free lunch.
Wow, you’re cold-hearted and judgmental. You really don’t know what each family is struggling with. $22,000 is not much for an entire school district. Turning away that offer of payment, preferring to shame, punish, panic and intimidate families is outright extortion: “Pay up or you’ll never see your children again, and maybe break your legs while we’re at it.” Horrific.
Such an attitude can only come from someone who mistakenly believes that all children belong first to the government and only if the government approves, then to the parents. There are far too many people in the government school system who believe this. Don’t call it “left” or “right,” it’s statist as opposed to individualist.
My parents are in their late 60s-early 70s.
They heard a similar story about “lunch shaming” or how some kids could not afford a school lunch.
My father grew up poor.
Hand-me down clothing, or his mother fixed and re-fixed/patched clothing. My dad would pick up odd jobs here and there and later a paper route to bring in some cash.
But they always had food. Was a lot of potatoes, or other root veggies. Maybe a pot roast that had to last them 3 or 4 days.
And there were no government provided school lunches then.
I think the question does have to be asked, are the parents taking advantage of the situation? If we walked into their house, would we find a XBox, big screen TV, all the cable options, smartphone when I simple flip phone will suffice. One or more pets? There are a lot of things people believe they need, when it is really is just a want.
AMEN!!!!!!!! We need more voices like yours! My neighbor had 3 dogs, 2 rabbits, a bird, a guinea pig, and 2 cats. She also had cable tv, cell phones for her and her daughters and they were always broke. She once came to me and asked me for some “extra stuff” to which I replied, “Cut your cable, then you’ll have some money. She never really spoke to me after that. Idolatry rules the day in the U.S. and when this system continues to break down and people REALLY start feeling it? It is going to get very ugly!
What about the children bringing their lunch in a brown bag, I suppose that is along the lines of no homemade treats for the classroom, My question is where is all this going ? The people who are suffering is the children, that is why I kept graham crackers, cookies, peanut butter, and who knows what else in my bottom desk drawer when I taught for 22 years, no it wasn’t really lunch but it filled the tummy somewhat. What our school systems are coming to is abominable and needs to change NOW. I almost don’t want to admit that I am a born and bred Pennsylvanian. Makes me sick to just think about the situation .
I think brown bagging lunch is a unknown option nowadays.
When my mom re-entered into the work force once I was in elementary school, I was expected to pack my own lunch every morning.
Would a child be even able to make his/her own lunch today?
Could the parents even do it?
Seriously, I know of grown adults who can only boil water to pour the boxed mac&cheese into.
Anything past that, and they are clueless.
My kids made their lunches too, and their friends always thought they were so hard done by. However, now my kids are successful adults who can cook things, so I guess they made out okay.
TERRORISM IS A FEDERAL CRIME,NOW lets see president gun grabber ARREST THESE GOVERNMENT TERRORISTS,I have a case of beer says NONE of them will be arrested or tried for TERRORISM OR TREASON,..THE LORD TOLD THE MEN TO STAND UP AND PROTECT THEIR WOMEN AND CHILDREN,I suspect if they don’t,THEY’LL pay dear soon…
Maybe you should invest in a better dictionary?
Donald Trump has grabbed zero guns.
Terrorism is violence or coercion against civilians in order to effect a political end. That isn’t what happened here.
A man DID stand up to protect the children.
Now, what were you so upset about that you felt SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS was warranted?
Perhaps you should go easy on that beer.
Thank you for flagging this issue, Daisy. We must be vigilant for the family unit as preppers!
I get that there are plenty of mooches in our society. But threatening to take children away to teach a lesson is way out of bounds. Debt collectors cost money, but it’s tacked onto the original bill. That’s where this should’ve gone. A friendly letter first stating that those with debt will not be served meals again until the previous debt is paid. The kids can bring their own food until paid. [How expensive is a hardboiled egg and a peanut butter sandwich?] Then on to the debt collector if there is no response. This is a legit legal recourse. There are also public debt counselors who can help people work it out.
Sometimes poverty comes through no fault of our own but it also can come through a lack of basic money skills like budgeting. If money is going to be spent on public assistance anyway, why not come alongside parents with a hand that helps them to budget and also adds to their dignity of becoming more self sufficient — “I can do this” ? Poverty is living in perpetual discouragement. Unfortunately, public assistance comes with a huge frown. Mindless bureaucracy is not the answer to get people to pull themselves up.
But. Those guys who resorted to threatening parents with child removal need to start pounding the pavement with the rest of the unemployed. This also goes for the doctors who overreach their bounds and have children removed when parents don’t agree with medical procedures. Their overreach does not deserve the public trust.
Did the school ever ask the parents if they would have a difficult time purchasing lunch for their children?
Some people who are in charge are not creative in solving problems. They only know one way and take offense when other people can solve the problem for them. Some people keep pushing the door when the door sign says pull and they wonder why the door doesn’t open. A charity bowl to help the needy is all it takes. Putting children in Foster Care is too costly and then you have to wonder if the people in charge might be into Child Trafficking..
Did the school ever ask the parents if they would have a difficult time purchasing lunch for their children?
Some people who are in charge are not creative in solving problems. They only know one way and take offense when other people can solve the problem for them. Some people keep pushing the door when the door sign says pull and they wonder why the door doesn’t open. A charity bowl to help the needy is all it takes. Putting children in Foster Care is too costly and then you have to wonder if the people in charge might be into nefarious activity.
Interesting that someone assumes that the school board consists of the “moral right”. I assumed that they were the “know it all left”.
Same here. The left dominates education.
True, and “dominates” is an understatement.
This makes me so mad I struggle to even post without losing it.
Men are supposed to protect children. I listened to them speak to the reporters and now this refusal shows that they aren’t men but just mean scum and bullies.
They just announced they are taking the money and issuing apologies
Excellent! I’ll find a link and update.
I just had this conversation a few days ago with someone. There are many, many parents who CAN pay for school lunches, if they cut out Cable TV, which is a huge offender. The woman with whom I was speaking, told me she was a single mom and asked me WHY she should have to give up Cable if taxpayers can pay for her kids lunch? Um, why not?? i noticed this mother also had a Starbucks Cup in her hand. There are some families who are truly, truly poor and then there are many who are not. Cut out things you don’t need, there’s the school lunch for the kids. I remember years ago, a mom in my complex who had a few kids, expected all the meals for free but they ate out a lot. Hmmmm. How does that work? Scripture teaches that a wise man is wise with his money and that charity, and pity are two different things. If someone like the nice gentleman above desires to pay off someone else’s debt, then that is his choice. The school lunches in general, are paid for by taxpayers, and many whom I know personally who don;t eat out, have no TV and are wise with their money. My personal opinion is, most of us feel entitled to just about everything. If you can pay for Cable, you can make your kids lunch and send them to school OR pay for it….
The donator probably should have put a limit to only those who were not overweight getting the bailout Enabling gluttony is a bad idea.
That’s idiotic and ignorant. There are many reasons besides gluttony that people are overweight.
EWM I taught my kids one time, when we encountered some street beggars, that it’s ultimately up to them whether or not to give but if they do it must come from the heart so that once it’s gone you don’t look back on it to see where it’s going or what is done with it because that will only bring you aggravation. When you give you do it from the heart so that you know you were right and don’t worry about judging them.
The school is now accepting the offer from Mr. Carmichael (I believe that is his name) and the school lunch debt will be paid. In the upcoming school year, all students will be eligible for free breakfast and lunches since the school qualifies.
Its all about control