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Parents, students can give only small gifts to teachers

The Alabama Legislature has put a wrinkle in gift wrapping for teachers, principals, support staff — anyone working for Madison City Schools.

The Law and the Advisory Opinion by the legislature passed last spring states that all board employees, including teachers and school support staff, are considered public employees and are subject to the Ethics Law.

Can a student give a Christmas present to his or her teacher? Yes, with limitations.

A teacher or school employee can receive gifts of “de minimis value” (Latin for ‘about minimal things’) or not considered a “thing of value” under the law. Gifts valued at more than $25 per student are not “de minimis.”

However, administrators cannot receive gifts purchased from pooled contributions of employees under their supervision, except for recognition on special occasions, such as retirement.

Employees may receive gifts or gift cards purchased from pooled donations of teams, classes or school organizations if each person contributes less than $25.

The policy does not affect or limit gifts or gift cards spent for classroom items or to aid the teacher in performing responsibilities, Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler said. The teacher cannot convert the gift to personal use.

Madison Board of Education’s official policy states, “Greeting cards, items, services with little intrinsic value … 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 are among a number of exceptions to the term ‘thing of value.”

A school employee cannot accept a gift for the purpose of influencing an official action.

Parents can donate supplies that teachers or support staff use in performing their functions for the system. Examples are notebooks, school supplies and classroom needs. Gift cards to buy these supplies also are allowed.

For more information, read the school board’s policy at data.madisoncity.k12.al.us/Documents/Policies/V.%20%20%20Personnel%20July%202012.pdf and go to paragraph 5.20 – “Use of Office for Personal Gain or Gifts to Personnel.”

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