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Are Holiday Teacher Gifts Bribery?

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The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission nixes teacher gifts worth more than $50. Foul or fair?

Teacher with gifts on her desk

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: According to this article in The Boston Globe, the days of an apple for the teacher are long gone.

The crazy high level of competition in schools -- both private and public -- has upped the ante on teacher gifts, but some states are out to control this free-for-all in the interest of fair play. For instance, the article reports that the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission is on a mission to get crack-a-lacking on a new ethics law that "forbids public servants, including teachers on public payrolls, from receiving gifts with value in excess of $50." Those who violate these laws get fined.

David Giannotti, spokesman for the State Ethics Commission, told the Globe: "People need to understand that teachers are public employees and subject to the conflict-of-interest law. Gifts have a tendency to unlevel the playing field and can be exploited." Giannotti added that even a gift that was less than $50 could violate state law if it was given in the hopes of creating favoritism, such as changing a kid's grade or giving the child a positive recommendation.

The article goes on to mention that The Emily Post Institute says both public and private schools should be instituting a spending limit on teacher gifts, as opposed to the ridunkulous bonuses some California teachers copped to, like Prada bags, Rolex watches -- even HDTVs.

Lizzie Post, a spokeswoman for the institute, says, "The worst gift is cash, which comes across more as a bribe when a public official is involved, unlike holiday tips given to a personal trainer, dog walker, or baby-sitter."

Teachers are among the hardest working humans on the planet, and there's no question they deserve whatever kindness comes their way. However, laws like these still allow for parents to express their appreciation -- while taking the heat off of the many facing financial hardship this year.

What do you guys think? Should there be restrictions imposed on teacher gifts for the sake of fair play? And if so, what are cost-effective ways parents can show their appreciation?

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
musicmom December 8, 2009, 5:26 PM

No way should teacher gifts be “regulated”. Teachers work hard. Most are not “swayed’ by a gift and it does not “unlevel” the playing field.

Anonymous December 8, 2009, 10:54 PM

let the butt kissing begin

chris December 9, 2009, 5:14 AM

I would never spend that much on a teachers gift. I like to keep it around $10. The same amount I spend for Girl Scout leaders, Sunday School teachers etc. If every teacher got a gift from every child in their class, then I say that they are making out fairly well.

Chrissy December 9, 2009, 3:58 PM

There are some very competitive school district out. Particularly high school where the difference betweem an A- and a B+ and a teacher’s glowing recommendation means Ivy League school or not.
Yes teachers, like anyone can be “bribe” or influence.

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