Pay lunch debt or face consequence: Quakertown schools put parents on notice

QUAKERTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The Quakertown School District is putting parents on notice - pay school lunch debt or face the consequences.

"Three years ago, the student debt was $5,000, it grew two years ago to $12,000, last year it was $27,000 and this year it is on pace to $40,000," said Gary Weckselblatt, communications director with the Quakertown School District.

Under the new policy, students who don't pay lunch debt or any other fines could be prevented from participating in field trips, dances and even graduation ceremonies. If the debt is more than $1,000, the debt will be sent to collections under the parents or guardians name.

"We do not see this as a student issue. We believe this is a parent issue and parents need to be dealing with this," said Weckselblatt.

Many parents are not happy about the new policy. They say it puts a target on students and is unfair.

"If you want to go after the parents, that is one thing but to get the children involved and single them out and have them feel shamed for what is going on that is another thing,"said parent Amy Tulio.

"The superintendent said this is not supposed to be a punishment towards the students but to the parents. I don't see how that's punishing the parents if the students are the ones who are going to be singled out of extra curricular activities," said Jessie Strefeler-Hicks.

Under the new rules, parents will be given written notice about the debt and then will have a meeting with the school principal.

Families will then have 30 days to pay off the money owed. If it's not paid, then students could be stripped of extra curricular activities.

"Our kids are going to be fed. Period. That is not changing but we'd like those who have accrued debt to pay their bill," said Weckselblatt

The school district says the problem is not with families who are considered low income, but with those considered above the poverty level and likely can pay, but for some reason, don't.

"That should be sent to collections. I am sorry, if you can pay it, then you should. I know that if we were in the situation that we didn't need free lunch, I'd be more than happy to pay," said Strefeler-Hicks

The district plans to meet next week to discuss how to implant the new policy.
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