That $25 gift card to Miss Brown for all her hard work through the school year? Could be more trouble than it’s worth. And don’t even think of getting something costing more than $50, no matter how good she was with the children.
A new state advisory on the rules governing gift-giving to public school teachers is causing a stir for the second straight year, with good government advocates saying big gifts to teachers can be seen as attempts to influence and parents griping about restrictions and red tape.
“It puts teachers in a very awkward position,’’ said Tim Kearnan, a second-grade teacher in Hopkinton who heads the local teachers’ association. “There are a lot of teachers scratching their heads. It’s too bad we’ve reached this point in society when a thank-you gift is looked at sideways.’’
The latest comes as schools notify parents and teachers of a recent statement from the State Ethics Commission reminding that teachers, as public employees, cannot accept gifts from students or parents worth more than $50. Even those worth less can require submitting a public disclosure form.
The rules are longstanding ones, but have recently ignited widespread irritation among teachers, in part because of the requirement for written disclosure if “a reasonable person’’ might think the teacher’s actions would be influenced by the gift.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,’’ said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. “Why are we spending our time with something as minor as this? There’s no common sense here.’’