School rejects offer to pay $22,000 in delinquent student lunch bills

A Pennsylvania school district that threatened to put children with delinquent lunch bills in foster care rejected an offer from a Philadelphia business owner to pay the $22,000 bill.

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The chief executive officer and founder of La Colombe Coffee, Todd Carmichael, told WCAU-TV that he offered to wipe out the debt in a phone conversation with Wyoming Valley West school board president Joseph Mazur, but Mazur argued the parents can afford to pay the bill, according to Carmichael spokesman Aren Platt.

"The position of Mr. Carmichael is, irrespective of affluence, irrespective of need, he just wants to wipe away this debt," Platt told the news station.

Carmichael told news publications Monday that he made the offer because he knows what it’s like to be hungry and to feel shame when you can’t afford food.

Carmichael said his offer still stands, as Mazur did not return requests for comment.

The school district sent out letters last week warning parents that they "can be sent to dependency court for neglecting your child's right to food" and children can be removed from their families and placed in foster care, WCAU reported.

Luzerne County child welfare officials have said the statement is not true and that the county doesn’t run its foster care system that way.

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