Skip to comments.Alabama teachers could receive jail time for accepting Christmas gifts from students
Posted on 12/14/2011 2:42:13 PM PST by SeekAndFind
This is a prime example of the way “the few” can ruin it for “the many.” Because a few parents have sent their kids to school bearing over-the-top presents for Teacher, the State of Alabama Ethics Commission has decided that some Christmas gifts equate to bribes. A new ruling from the Commission prohibits teachers from accepting certain gifts, including gift cards, hams and turkeys. The Washington Post’s Janice D’Arcy has more:
Many states and some individual schools ask that parents and teachers respect certain gift-giving guidelines, but Alabamas law is far tougher than most. A teacher who is caught in violation could receive jail time and a fine of up to $6000.
According to an Associated Press story the Alabama Ethics Commission said teachers should have to abide by the same conflict-of-interest laws as lobbyists because The suggestion that it is harmless for a school child to give a Christmas gift to their teacher ignores the potential for abuse.
D’Arcy talked to a teacher friend of hers to find out whether teachers allow gifts to influence the way they treat students. Her friend says she does her best to not be influenced by presents — and that, particularly in the case of a child with behavioral problems, she’s not any more or less apt to overlook infractions because she did or didn’t receive a present.
On some level, the ethics ruling makes sense: Why not remove entirely the temptation to treat children differently according to the presents their parents prepare? But on another level, this is indicative of the general trend toward overcriminalization in our nation today. And overcriminalization has broad and negative consequences for our country. The proliferation of laws and prohibitions means both that more law enforcement becomes necessary and that laws are likely to be broken on a more regular basis, either because citizens aren’t aware of the law or because they find it petty. That, in turn, gradually erodes the rule of law.
Let’s apply the basic principle of subsidiarity here: The state is not “the most local level” at which this “problem” could be solved. Teachers ought to be able to solve this issue on their own. If they sense that they’re unduly influenced by presents, they could ask parents to refrain. Failing that, individual schools could establish gift policies.
Or, as an entirely different solution, we could accept that children with involved parents do have an advantage in school and life — and, instead of seeking to limit the activity of such parents, focus our time, attention and effort on encouraging absent parents to be a bit more present for their children.
Last thought: This ruling, as with so many senseless policies, assumes the primacy of the material over the personal or spiritual. That is, it assumes that material presents buy children an advantage immaterial presents — like gratitude, politeness and diligence in the classroom — could never purchase. But no doubt a heartfelt thank-you note to a teacher would, in most cases, curry just as much favor as an elaborate gift.
Christmas gifts are a no-no but what about kwanzaa gifts?
Shouldn’t they properly be called “Winter Solstice” gifts? I mean, public schools don’t celebrate Christmas, but they do have a Winter Break and a Winter Concert.
I was a very bad kid.
They have a good point. There are some parents out there who are utterly shameless about their children, including bribing teachers for better grades.
The best way to short circuit such nonsense is to put a dollar limit on it, and teachers let kids know that any gifts worth more than that automatically go to some designated charity.
What the gift is, as well, is also scrutinized. Some students think it is hilarious to gift teachers with adult oriented gifts, from liquor to lingerie, and this should set off alarm bells, especially if the students aren’t trying to be funny.
While I think jail time is definitely over the top, I’m inclined to support the “no gifts” policy, but for different reasons. I can see where this can quickly become very competitive to see “who can give the teacher the best gift” (especially when the parents get involved.) Kids from families for whom this practice would be a financial hardship will be made to feel like crap by their peers. In my opinion, the policy should be that giving the teacher a Christmas card (or other holiday card) is perfectly fine, but gifts of any kind cannot be accepted.
‘_______I’m inclined to support the “no gifts” policy____”
I have been shouting this for years at my daughters and their giving to their kids’ teachers.
One of our daughters IS an elementary school teacher, and you should see the treasure trove she could invade when someone needed a gift to give!
Altho there is kind of a code at her school, or at least now with her.
Could see it was getting out of hand years ago.
Pleaded with daughters to influence their friends to STOP IT!
But no - even as shopping for something made them nuts as to what.
Maybe I would allow the coffee shop gift cards - from the whole class - these sorts of businesses have made it easy to give something reasonable, and possible to just re-gift, if one wishes to.
Coffee Shop, Cupcake Bakery, etc. gift cards - no kid is singled out as a super giver, or a non-giver.
Some years back Dear Abbey or Heloise had some good guidelines, but how many listened?
The problem is that the corruptible teachers the law is intended to rein in would obviously not do any such thing.
The law may be too strict, but the basic concept is sound. It ought to have some kind of de minimus level (e.g. gifts are allowed, but only up to a certain stated dollar value).
The ethics laws are payback to the teachers union for interfering in the last governor election - the union engineered the primary defeat of Republican favorite Bradley Byrne by crossing over and voting in droves for current Governor Bentley, so when Republicans swept the elections and took over both houses, this was voted in along with other provisions that effectively hamstring the rat money machine. This is a good thing, but there are consequences - like we can no longer openly pool money and buy a nice gift card for my daughter’s band director, who is a great guy and fully deserves a nice gift. Too bad Republicans in DC are too craven to do things like that.
After the first 50 coffee mugs tend to loose power as a bribe.
IMHO, a great Christmas present a parent could give to his or her children is to remove them from the public schools.
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