What laws or guidelines apply to gifts given by parents or students to teachers, or by staff members and employees and board members to each other?

A ‘gift’ is something of economic value given to a public official or a public official’s family member or member of their household.   The gift can become an issue when the total value of gifts given by one individual to a public official exceeds $50 in a calendar year.

Teachers, staff members or board members should not accept any gifts from anyone with a legislative or administrative interest in the district (patrons, families, companies or organizations) which are valued over $50 in a year.  This means gifts from a family to a teacher, over a year, should not in total be over $50 in value.  A good practice is to discourage students and their parents from giving any gifts to district employees, but encourage them instead to send letters expressing their appreciation.

Now, what about gifts between employees?  This is where it gets complicated.   Gifts are acceptable when they are given ‘down’ the chain of command, but NOT when they are given ‘up’ the chain of command. 

Let’s try that again: Individual employees should not give gifts over $50 in value to staff members who exercise any direct or indirect administrative or supervisory jurisdiction over them.  Teachers should not give gifts to principals, or principals give gifts to the superintendent.   No employee should give a gift over $50 to a board member.  

Technically it is OK to give gifts ‘down’ the chain of command.  Board members can give the superintendent a gift (but not vice versa), the superintendent can give a principal a gift (but not the other way around), and so on down the chain of command.   In order to keep this simple and avoid awkward situations the easy rule is: no gifts between any levels of staff members.

So what happens if you are the superintendent and your spouse is a teacher?   Gifts between family members who just happen to be employed in the same district are OK.  Yes, your husband or wife can still give you a birthday, anniversary or Valentines present even if you are both employed in the same district.  

For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.