Danville Express

Perspective - April 6, 2007

Don't thank teachers with expensive gifts

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has a policy that employees, including teachers, have to report any gifts worth more than $50 received from a single source in one calendar year. The district's legal counsel advised the district it should have such a policy.

Guidelines on gifts are a good idea for any public agency to make sure vendors know they cannot influence buyers to give them business through monetary or other gifts. The limit under the school district policy is $390 from a single source in a calendar year, or any amount or at any time if the conditions or timing are questionable.

Now how about teachers? They do wonderful work with our children, and at the Christmastime and at the end of the school year many parents want to thank them for their work by giving them gifts. Some parents have worked side by side with teachers in the classroom and want to acknowledge this relationship. This ritual of students giving gifts to their teachers has been going on since children started leaving the home to go to school and brought apples or other simple presents to their teachers in the one room schoolhouses.

In this area, parents sometimes lavish costly presents on teachers such as gift certificates or the use of vacation homes. While we do not like to believe a teacher would actually show favoritism to a child based on expensive gifts from the parents, it could still become a sticky situation. Plus some teachers have said they find such generosity embarrassing.

As with most occupations, the best reward can be a letter thanking them for a job well done, and perhaps a letter to the principal as well. If a gift is meant to say thank you, parents can say it just as well with words, even citing examples of the special things the teacher has done to help their student during the school year. Such letters are priceless but do not have to be reported under the district's gift policy.


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