Charles County turning to collection agency for school lunch debts

In cafeterias across the country, students line up every day for a hot lunch. Many parents pay for those lunches in advance by sending in a check to the school system.

But when those checks bounce, the schools are left trying to collect.

On Monday, Charles County schools announced a new policy to deal with bounced checks: To avoid having employees taking collections, the schools have turned the task over to a collection agency.

So far this year, Charles County schools have received more than a thousand dollars in bad checks for student lunches. Last year, it was more than $7,000.

The move to hire an outside firm is being met with mixed reactions.

"I don't think it should be handled by a collection agency,” said Michelle Brookes, a parent.

Charles County isn't the only local school system using private companies to collect lunch money. Stafford County, Montgomery County and Prince George's County already use collection firms for bounced checks. Prince William and Arlington county schools don't.

If a lunch check does bounce, the penalty in Maryland schools is $35.