Beware of Gifting the Teacher!

This is the time of year when kids and parents are choosing a gift for that special teacher – usually in elementary or middle school. But wait – as Bill Maher would say – New Rules! As part of that much touted ethics law passed by the state legislature – lest these gifts be considered a bribe or a conflict of interest – there’s a new interpretation of gifting our public school teachers.  With a nod to the story in today’s SUN, here are guidelines for giving:

Here is how changes in the Massachusetts state ethics law affect teachers and other public employees.

* A gift is defined as anything of value that is given without something of equivalent fair-market value being given in return.

* A teacher may not accept a gift or gifts from a current student or a parent over the course of an entire year (365 days) with the combined value of $50 or more.

* Gifts that have a value under $50 are permitted under the law, but may be subject to reporting to the State Ethics Commission on a disclosure form.

*Teachers may accept a group gift or gifts of up to $150 per year, as long as the gift is identified as being from the entire class or group, and the identity of any individual student or parent contributing, and the amounts given by each, are not identified to the teacher.

*Teachers may accept a gift to the classroom that is to be used for the class. That gift becomes the property of the school district.

*Co-workers may exchange gifts of any value.

*Gifts between a supervisor and a subordinate are limited to:

>Gifts other than cash or gift certificates that are valued at less than $10.

>Refreshments shared in the office.

>Personal hospitality in the employee’s home as is customarily provided to personal friends and hostess gifts given in connection with the receipt of personal hospitality.

>Special infrequent occasions, such as marriage, illness, birth or adoption 

>Gifts given in connection with the termination of the subordinate-superior relationship, such as transfer, resignation or retirement. Employees can voluntarily solicit or contribute nominal amounts of up to $10 for a group gift to an official superior for special occasions.

>A public-school employee may accept gifts of substantial value upon retirement as long as the gift is to recognize the employee’s services generally and are not intended as a reward for any specific, past or official action.

Read Lyle Moran’s full article on gifts to teachers and the need for teachers to file a “disclosure” form here in today’s SUN.

6 Responses to Beware of Gifting the Teacher!

  1. Steve says:

    Maybe they should worry about the reverse. I remember reading a Mike Barnicle column in which he was talking to a teacher in Boston.
    “A kid told me to give him a B or he’d kill me.”
    Barnicle: “What did you do?”
    Teacher: “I gave him a B.”

    I’ve been teaching for a long time and I’ve never gotten anything, or wanted anything, of any real value, though it means a lot to a teacher to get a Christmas card. In my experience, the only kids who are thoughtful enough to give a teacher a card or some little souvenir are kids who are already great students, a pleasure to have in class and are getting high grades on their own.

  2. Bob Forrant says:

    Does the same apply to University faculty? If so, I need to declare the new BMW, the two weeks at St Barts, and the $50 gift card for Brew’d Awakening. Oh the agony. The mind also races to why there would need to be such a painstaking effort to rain on one of the small joys of teaching – the thank you in whatever small form – while: blue-haired models have lurked for months in the employ of UMass Medical swiping dough from unsuspecting folks who simply think they are being added to a bone marrow registry; the probation dept has been engaged in massive jobs corruption for several years; the last few speakers of the MA legislature have been shall we say less than above board; Bank of America’s unsavory foreclosure practices continue seemingly unchecked; and the stench from the Big Dig still enters my vehicle every time I drive through Boston. For the love of God – can sanity prevail???

    Peace, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  3. Jason says:

    Well it turns out I’m in violation of the rule. So come and get me ethics commission. I’m laying down the challenge. Sorry I spent more than ten bucks on the guys I work with. As their supervisor I am apparently a bad person for not being a cheap SOB. It’s not the first time either, I’m a repeat offender. Not to mention all the times I never filed disclosure forms for gifts I was given.

    Really? This is what it has come to? I can think of a lot better ways to spend tax dollars than on the ethics comission investigating such egregious violations. Maybe if they share the benefits of their Dunkin’s gift cards with me at work, they’ll let it slide under the “refreshments” rule.

  4. gjp says:

    Jason, Fear not. I think you have done nothing wrong. At first I had the same concern that you had. I also wondered why the law would limit the ability for me to buy a $20 giftcard for my overworked, underpaid, over-furloughed employees.

    But, the article has a mistake when it refers to “gifts betwen a supervisor and a subordinate”. Read the actual state ethics rules on their website.

    You can give a gift between $10 and $50 to people who work for you. It’s your subordinates that can’t give a gift over $10 to their supervisors. So a gift from a supervisor to subordinate is ok. Subordiate gifts to bosses are limited by the new law..

    Go here:

    Look under 5.08 section #8 “Gifts among public employees”