Brickbat: Cute Kid You Got There


Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley West School District has sent letters to parents warning them that if they don't pay overdue lunchroom bills their children could be taken from them and placed into foster care. School officials say some parents collectively owe $20,000 in lunch bills, and the system's previous efforts to get them to pay haven't worked. The school system's lawyer denied the letters were threatening. "Hopefully, that gets their attention and it certainly did, didn't it?," Charles Coslett said to a local TV station. "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."

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  1. After complaints, district officials announced they plan to send out a less threatening letter next week.

    Parent: “Phew. For a second there I thought they were serious.” [Rips up check.]

    1. I am glad it was just a joke, because when I read this post I was ready to …


      Plausible deniability

    2. Another reason to avoid government schools. What an IDIOTIC letter to send, regardless of the “funny” nature of it. Presumably at least some of the parents who didn’t pay, COULDN’T pay, and as government schools NEVER run out of money, whomever set this up deserves to be FIRED and kept from working at ANY school, ANYWHERE. The lack of quality teachers were enough for my wife and I to send our two girls to private, parochial schools. FUCK GOVERNMENT AT EVERY TURN! LESS, FAR LESS GOVERNMENT, IS THEY WAY TO CORRECT SUCH IDIOCIES.

      1. Just apply the NAP to government.

    3. And for those of you who don’t get the title’s “joke”, “Nice kid, it would be a shame if anything happened to her”, which, sadly, is almost the case. The government schools I attended, which were in a VERY wealthy town, were so poor my father was retroactively ashamed he hadn’t checked them out before letting us attend them. Solution? ELIMINATE ALL GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS AND GIVE THE PROCEEDS TO PARENTS TO PUT THEIR KIDS WHERE THEY WANT THEIR KIDS TO GO. BETTER SOLUTION? CUT GOVERNMENT AND ITS UNHELPFUL INTRUSIONS BY AT LEAST 50%

  2. In related news, the Jerusalem Post recently reported about allegations of a childcare worker mistreating kids in her care. The local police are trying to determine why her house burned down.

    1. I hope what you say above is true, sharmota-4zeb, and if not, it should be.

  3. I guess I don’t understand why people would be upset about this…most people don’t get bent out of shape when the government does the same thing to people who don’t pay their taxes…

    1. most people here would definitely get bent out of shape. Welcome to Reason.

      1. Was about to say the same thing. Actually, folks here might be more upset about taxes. Racking up a school lunch debt is completely voluntary; no one has a (legal) choice about paying taxes.

        1. In general, I agree that jailing “tax offenders” is more egregious (because they never agreed to the debts they incurred).

          However, in this case the children (the people being punished) aren’t the individuals even nominally responsible for the debts they’re incurring at the school (the children being minors and all), but that’s less about the principle of the matter (i.e “jailing” people for debts they presumably still owe AFTER their inprisonmnet) and more the misapplication of the principle (i.e. punishing the wrong party).

      2. I’ve been here for a while, my comment was a snarky commentary on cultural feelings (in general) on government…

        1. Curious, what does your username/handle mean?

          1. There’s a webseries from a few years back (started in 2003, I’m not sure if it’s still running) called “Red vs Blue.” It was based on the video game Halo.

            Anyway, the characters are planning a prisoner exchange (I think) and the lead guy is calling the plan the “Circle of Confusion,” one of the others argues that it looks more like a triangle, the first character gets frustrated and says “Okay fine, Triangle of Confusion, Rhombus of Terror, Parabola of Mystery, who cares!? Get the god damned show on the road!”

            Long story short, it was just something comical I picked up and stuck with.

            1. Ah, gotcha.

              I thought maybe it was a play on “Octagon of Doom” (Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, KS).

              1. No, though, that’s an interesting coincidence…

                …especially now because of all the overlap with this topic (shape-named coliseums) AND the original story (breach of contract)…

                “Bust a deal, face the wheel! Two men enter, one man leaves!”
                (Oddly enough, this would probably be my preferred method for settling tax disputes.)

                1. “Government is just another word for the death matches we watch together” …not a bad slogan.

    2. So the school forces my kids to get a lunch and then bills me for food that the kids dont want to eat?

      Yeah, Libertarians would have a problem with the public school part and the forced lunch with billing bullshit.

      Just end public schools.

      1. No one forces kids (or their parents) to eat school lunch. At least not in the districts I’m familiar with. Kids can still bring their own lunch to school or leave and eat elsewhere if there is an open lunch period.

        1. I’ll take your word for it.

          IIRC, I was not allowed to leave school for lunch until High School.

          I don’t remember free lunches and the snack place required payment when ordering your food.

          1. Yeah, I’ve only ever seen high schools have actual open lunch periods. Although, I remember in grade school (early 90’s) I would sometimes walk the two blocks home for lunch if my folks were home. I don’t recall that the school even required a note from my parents or anything. I doubt that would be allowed anywhere these days. In fact, a lot of high schools are doing away with open lunches because of security concerns.

            Ending public schools is probably not possible. However, ending school lunch programs (or at least federal grant programs) might be something to attainably strive for.

          2. All schools are legally required to provide lunch. If you qualify due to low income or hardship, they are required to provide children with free or reduced price lunch (the price last I checked was $0.45/day). The feds pay the rest.

            This is why the schools have such stringent requirements on lunches. They are designed around the poorest of students to be the primary source of nutrition. Ironically, this has put such a documentation and cost burden on schools that they essentially have to use prepackaged meals. How else can your average cafeteria lady comply with a multi-thousand page requirements manual?

            1. Many also provide breakfast. They are, after all, supposed to be surrogate parents.

              1. In my wife’s district, they unfortunately are.

      2. I agree. My comment was intended to be sarcastic (I though it was pretty clear)…apparently I’m bad at it or everybody’s just super serious today.

      3. UPDATE: According to Luzerne County Manager David Pedri, at least five donors have stepped forward willing to satisfy the $22,000 in debt accrued by dozens of students whose parents did not give them money to pay for the meals.
        So, Carmichael’s team contacted the district’s school board.

        “And,” he said, “we were rejected.”

        Offers Pour In To Cover Pa. Students’ Meal Debt, But School Officials Not Interested

        If the School wont accept payment, no matter who pays, then this is about something else.

  4. The district’s federal programs director, Joseph Muth, told WNEP-TV the district had considered serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to students with delinquent accounts but received legal advice warning against it.

    Why? Because of potential peanut allergies?

    1. No, at least in Texas, it is illegal.
      A school cafeteria is required to provide sufficient nutrition for the week, including set numbers of grains, proteins, dairy products, fruits, and a wide variety of vegetables (including beans, red/orange vegetables, and greens).

      By giving a substitute lunch that does not comply with the legal requirements, they risk losing the cafeteria certification, which means they will get no money from the government whatsoever. The people who will be hurt most are the ones who truly cannot pay, who should be getting free or reduced lunch.

  5. My wife and my sister-in-law are both teachers, and from what they tell me, it’s absolutely crazy how much debt people pile-up and try not to pay on their kids lunch accounts. They just expect their kids to be fed by others.

    I often tell people that public schools should not provide lunches; parents should send food with their kids. The most common response is, “parents wouldn’t feed their kids.” My answer is “bullshit.” And besides, if a parent really were to let a kid literally starve, then maybe everyone would be better off if the kid became a ward of the state (and that’s an extremely low bar).

    1. Don’t the school districts spew propaganda about how they feed kids.

      Now it turns out the schools get good press that they are feeding kids but in reality are simply restaurants with shitty food and the parents play dine-and-dash.

  6. How the crap can someone owe $20,000 for school lunches? Do they have 8 kids?

    1. Collectively multiple families owe 20k.

      1. “School officials say some parents collectively owe $20,000 in lunch bills…”

        School officials need to learn to speak more clearly (shocker, I know).

        1. Our lunch program had an issue whereby some kids meals would effectively be covered by other parents.

          It wouldn’t surprise me at all that ‘some parents’ discovered at the end of the year that the plan they signed one kid up for ended up billing them for 2 or more and refused to pay.

        2. The source article is clearer

          “The district says that it is trying to collect more than $20,000, and that other methods to get parents to pay have not been successful. Four parents owe at least $450 apiece.”

          1. Okay, that does make the math clearer – but it makes the school’s case much worse. They’re seriously saying that they can force a kid into foster care over less than $500? That’s both insane and petty – wildly disproportionate.

    2. That’s the total for all delinquent parents.

  7. An interlocking oppressive authority structure consisting of child protective services, school “resource” officers and school mental health therapists and counselors is slowly congealing in my state.
    No one wants to control families more than public schools do and they are the epitome of leftist collectivist garbage.

  8. Just tell the school that you’re illegal aliens. Then they’ll fight to be sure you’re not separated from your kids, because that would be a human rights violation.

    1. +1000

    2. A more common tactic is to say that you are homeless, which automatically qualifies you for the free lunch program. It’s also more or less illegal to question you if you claim it.

  9. Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley West School District has sent letters to parents warning them that if they don’t pay overdue lunchroom bills their children could be taken from them and placed into foster care.

    Sounds like a threat to me.

    I would sue until that lawyer gets fired and I win enough to never pay that lunch bill.

    When did schools start giving kids food that they dont want to eat and then billing parents? Don’t schools claim to feed these kids as some grand gesture to prevent food deserts?

  10. “Hopefully, that gets their attention and it certainly did, didn’t it?,” Charles Coslett said to a local TV station.

    Something something lawyers at the bottom of a lake?

    A good start.

    1. We need a bigger lake to put more in.

      1. We have five Great Lakes, after all.

  11. normally kids have a choice to bring their own lunches but does anyone remember a report here at Reason when Micheal Obama’s lunch program was literally taking kids lunches that they brought from home because they didn’t meet the schools even worse guide lines.

    1. I do remember something like that, but I thought it was in the UK.

  12. In our son’s local elementary school, the lunch ladies had a de rigueur redistribution scheme going on. Kids who’s lunch ‘debit cards’ were empty could wait at the register until another kid who’s card was good either volunteered or could be convinced to cover them.

    We sure as hell opted out of that program once we discovered it and I could certainly sympathize with any group of parents who refused to pay such a bill until things got fixed.

  13. To me, there is no shortage of assholes in this story.
    1) As much as we disagree with compulsory gov’t schooling, kids gotta eat. Someone has to pay for that food. It shouldn’t be the taxpayers in general that pays, it should be the kids parents. Unfortunately, that impacts the kids more than the parents because the parents aren’t the ones who get left with no lunch (or get embarrassed). So fuck the parents that haven’t paid for their kids’ lunch.
    2) I don’t care how much the parents owe in lunch bills, even jokingly threatening the parents with forced removal of the children is completely inappropriate. If parents haven’t paid their debt, follow the same fucking thing that other people do to collect a debt. Go to a collection agency, etc. So fuck the school district for the threat.
    3) Fuck the local, state and Federal governments for putting in place the ridiculous system we have such that people don’t pay for their goods and services directly, but rather put “society” on the hook.

    1. The taxpayer pays for most of it either way. School lunch is heavily subsidized.

    2. +1000

  14. “Their [Luzerne County’s manager and child welfare agency director] letter calls the district’s actions troubling and a misrepresentation of how the Children and Youth Services Department and its foster care program operate.”

    I’m quite certain they also don’t want an accurate representation of how the department and it’s programs operate either.

  15. $20,000 in school lunch debt? Something doesn’t smell right.

    School lunches are heavily subsidized. In most schools, it’s a dollar or two a meal. But let’s round up and say $5. There are about 180 school days in most districts. So assuming that you bought the most expensive lunch every day, it would take over 22 years to build up that debt. Last I checked, school stopped after 12 years.

    Okay, maybe some parents are supporting multiple kids. But this claim by the school district seems… implausible.

  16. You know, there are federal laws and probably state laws governing debt collection practices. IANL, but I would think threatening to take away your kids breaks a lot of them.

    I think the school district will now has bigger problems then a $20k uncollectible debt.

  17. Charles Coslett should be arrested and charged with child endangerment and making terrorist threats.

    And if no one is willing to do that, we can always park a woodchipper in front of his house.

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