Pennsylvania district accepts previously rejected $22K donation for student lunch debt

The school district in Luzerne County that gained national attention is now apologizing for threatening parents with foster care for their children over the students' unpaid lunch debts. It has also accepted a previously rejected donation to cover the debt.

NBC News reported that the Wyoming Valley West School District board of directors issued a statement Wednesday apologizing for the tone in a previous letter about the lunch debt.

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"Please accept our sincere apology for any harm or inconvenience the letter caused," the statement, signed by Mazur, said, according to NBC News.

In that letter, according to WBRE, Wyoming Valley West School District officials said that parents should pay for past-due lunch bills or risk having their children placed in foster care.

Luzerne County officials demanded a retraction letter from the school district, saying there is no way it would remove children from their homes over unpaid bills.

"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 Director Joanne Van Saun told WBRE.

"Foster care is something we utilize as a shield to assist kids. It's not a sword. We don't like foster care being utilized to try to terrorize individuals," Pedri told NPR on Wednesday.

Todd Carmichael, the CEO of Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee who offered to make a $22,000 donation to cover the debt, said his offer was refused by Wyoming Valley West School Board President Joseph A. Mazur. It has since been accepted.

Aren Platt, a spokesperson for Carmichael and La Colombe Coffee, said they were pleased that the decision about the donation had been reversed and that the donation was accepted. Platt said they want another letter sent to parents who received the foster care warning.

"We are feeling incredibly optimistic with the most recent developments over the last several hours and look forward to taking the next steps to make sure both that the money is used as intended and the parents are treated with dignity," Platt told NBC News.

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