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Limits on Gifts to Teachers? Alabama Struggles with Ethics Behind Parent Gift-Giving

Limits on Gifts to Teachers? Alabama Struggles with Ethics Behind Parent Gift-Giving

Should there be a limit on how much money parents spend on gifts for teachers?

That’s the question the Alabama Ethics Commission is struggling with. This week, the group changed its opinion that for the past few years said no parent should give a teacher a gift of over $25.

Gifts to teachers, the commission previously said, should include things like "homemade cookies, fruit baskets, coffee mugs, and books of a nominal value," said

These restrictions were created by the commission to advise against parents using gifts to sway a teacher to act in their child’s favor.

"What we don't want is a teacher trading grades for gifts or setting up a culture in the classroom that those who help out the teacher get better grades or better treatment," said Tom Albritton, executive director for the Alabama Ethics Commission to

The commission drafted the new opinion in October but finalized it this week in time for the holidays after allowing for a period of public comment.

The opinion is designed not just for teachers but for all public employees, though Albritton admitted gift-giving to teachers is "the clearest example" where questions are "most often raised."

Unfortunately, the commission’s gift suggestions are items that most teachers would rather not receive.

According to a preferences poll hosted by, a majority of teachers said they would rather not receive a coffee mug, decorative or homemade item and instead would prefer gift cards, classroom supplies, books or other items that can help alleviate the expensive burden of supplying a classroom.

The teachers polled, however, did agree with the commission’s modest price range as a majority said up to $15 is an appropriate amount of money to spend on gifts for them.

Alabama, according to NPR, is the only state to explicitly mention teachers in gift-restriction discussions. 

"As long as I've been here, and I've been here 10 years, teachers have not come up in any discussion about being a public employee and therefore subject to a state restriction or gift ban," said Peggy Kerns, who directs the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures to NPR in 2011, the year that the commission first created the restrictions.


What do YOU think about the Alabama Ethics Commission input on teacher gifts? Take our poll below to weigh-in.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


What do YOU think about the Alabama Ethics Commission input on teacher gifts?

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