This Christmas, students (or their parents) in Alabama won’t be able to buy their teachers any gift of value without breaking Alabama’s new ethics law.
Cookies Yes, Gift Cards No
Students can still bake cookies, or bring in something consumable such as hand lotion or a candle, a potted plant or a coffee cup, said Jim Sumner, director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, which has been asked to clarify the law as it relates to holiday gifts.
But cash or anything that a teacher could turn around and resell is out of the question, Sumner said, as are holiday turkeys and ham.
No Gifts With Resale Value
From The Times-Journal:
Under the law, the test for an unethical gift is whether the item being given has any resale value or value to others. The law defines as legal, “Greeting cards, items, services with little intrinsic value which are intended solely for presentation (such as plaques, certificates, and trophies), promotional items commonly distributed to the general public and items or services of de minimis value.”
Part of the problem is that “de minimis value” is not defined under the law. In an advisory opinion, the Ethics Commission said it would not “arbitrarily establish an amount.”
As a teacher and a parent, I can say that I’ve had as much joy in giving gifts at Christmas as I have receiving them. When my son was struggling in third grade and his teachers put in lots of extra hours to work with him, I was grateful for the opportunity to reward them with gift cards to their favorite restaurants.
Thank heaven I’m not a third-grade parent in Alabama now.
Do They Think We’re Trying To Buy A Passing Grade?
Here’s the response of one Alabama mom on The Birmingham News Commentary:
I was shocked and heartbroken by the email I received just before Thanksgiving break. The subject line read, “New Ethics Law affects Teachers Gifts.” Under this new law I am not allowed to give my son’s teacher anything of “value” for Christmas. Does the Alabama Legislature really think that I am buying a passing grade for my kindergartner by giving his teacher a gift card? As a family with two working parents, what we can do for our sons’ teachers at Christmas, or any other time, will never equal the value of what those teachers give our sons.
This new law is clearly unfair to teachers and parents, particularly as in many districts parents choose to give teachers gift cards that they can use to purchase school supplies, something that all teachers routinely spend their own money on.
Home-baked cookies are great, but gift-giving shouldn’t be limited to items that have no retail value.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: Three Honeybees
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