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School district that threatened to put students in foster care over unpaid lunch bills denies benefactor’s request to pay debt off


Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth

Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Update 7/25/2019, 9:14 a.m. ET:

The Wyoming Valley West school district has reversed its stance on refusing Philadelphia-area benefactor's request to donate the unpaid lunch funds.

You can read more on the update here.

Original story below ...

A Pennsylvania school district has refused to allow a Philadelphia businessman's request to pay off the students' massive lunch debt.

The Wyoming Valley West School District previously threatened to place students in foster care if their unpaid school lunch balances went unaddressed.

News of the district's intentions went viral, and following outrage from citizens and concerned parents, the district promised to issue an apology to the parents who received threatening letters.

What are the details?

Todd Carmichael, CEO and founder of LaColombe Coffee Roasters in Philadelphia, offered to foot the more-than $22,000 outstanding lunch tab.

In an interview with WPVI-TV, Carmichael said that he knows what it's like to struggle, which is the main reason he wants to help the afflicted families.

"I think it doesn't take a rocket scientist to put A and B together here to realize that these people are struggling," Carmichael said on Tuesday night. "We're shaming people who are struggling, and that's immoral and that's just wrong."

"I know what it means to be hungry," he admitted. "I know what it means to feel shame for not being able to afford food. I worked with my team to reach out to the school district to let them know we were eager to donate the full amount outstanding."

Despite Carmichael's generosity, the district declined to take him up on the offer.

Why did the district decline the offer?

Instead, the district's school board president, Joseph Mazur, argued that the outstanding lunch money is owed by families who can absolutely afford to pay the tabs.

Carmichael's spokesperson, Aren Platt, told the station that the financial backgrounds of the families don't matter to him.

"The position of Mr. Carmichael is irrespective of affluence, irrespective of need," Platt insisted. "He just wants to wipe away these debts."

Carmichael also issued an open letter, which, according to ABC News, was published in local newspapers in the northeastern Pennsylvania area.

"Mr. Mazur," a portion of the letter read, "I am offering to pay this debt in full. By saying no, you are not just shaming families who elected you, but you are placing this burden on [Wyoming Valley West] taxpayers, and that is completely unfair."

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