Changes to State Ethics Regulations on Gift Giving and Acceptances

As we enter the holiday season, I would like to inform parents about School Committee policy GBEBC and the Massachusetts Conflict of Interest law (MGL chapter 268A) as it relates to the giving of gifts by parents or parent organizations to individual staff who are employed by the Reading Public Schools.  Recently, the State Ethics Commission has approved amendments to the section of the law on gift giving and acceptance.  These new regulations are currently in effect and it is recommended that teachers and parents follow them accordingly.  A copy of these regulations can be accessed here.

In summary, the new regulations on gift giving and acceptance are as follows:

  • Teachers are allowed to accept a gift(s) with a combined value of up to a maximum of $150 per year from their current public school students and/or their parents as long as the gift is identified only as being from the class, and the identity of givers and the amounts given by each individual are not identified to the teacher receiving the gift.
  • A teacher accepting a gift of less than $50 from a current student, according to the regulations, will need to complete a disclosure form and send that disclosure form to Laura Gemme, the Town Clerk, at Town Hall.  A copy of the disclosure form is can be accessed here.
  • A teacher may accept a gift to the classroom that is to be used for the class and which will become the property of the school district.  The teacher should let the building principal know so that the gift can be properly accepted as a gift by the Reading School Committee.

 Here are some examples:

Example:  A teacher has a class with 23 students.  Parents of 20 of the students collect money and give the teacher a $150 gift certificate to a book store, indicating that it is a class gift.  One of the parents who did not contribute to the class gift gives the teacher a $25 certificate to a spa.  The teacher may accept the $150 class gift certificate and no disclosure is required; the teacher may not accept any other gift from the parents who contributed to the class gift.  The teacher may accept the $25 spa certificate, but must file a disclosure.

Example:  A teacher has a class with 23 students.  Parents of 13 of the students collect money and give the teacher a $130 gift certificate to a book store, indicating that it is a class gift.  Parents of the other 10 students collect money and give the teacher a $100 gift certificate to an office supply store, indicating that the gift is a gift to the classroom and that the teacher should use it to buy necessary classroom supplies.  The teacher can accept the first gift on his/her own behalf and the second on behalf of the classroom.  He/she must spend the $100 office supply gift certificate on classroom supplies and should keep receipts documenting those purchases.  Items purchased with money that is a gift to the classroom are the property of the school district.  The teacher may not knowingly accept any additional gift from parents who participated in the class gift.

An appropriate way to recognize and thank the efforts of a staff member is to follow the guidelines of Reading School Committee policy GBEBC which states that, “When families, students, or others wish to express personal appreciation to a teacher or other staff member, the Reading School Committee urges them to find modes of expression that do not involve personal gifts.”  This could include donating to a worthwhile charity, the PTO, the Reading Technology Education Foundation (RTEF) or the school itself in the name of the teacher.  We also encourage letters of appreciation which are highly treasured by staff.

In summary, the Reading Public Schools is not attempting to discourage gift giving or saying thank you to a special employee.  Rather, our purpose is to inform the community about the state law and School Committee policy and ask for your voluntary compliance with these requirements.

Parents with questions are encouraged to contact their building principal or go to the State Ethics Commission website.

Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.  With the holidays quickly approaching, I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season.

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