New ethics law affects teachers

Published 2:31 pm Friday, December 16, 2011

By Nicole Loggins / STAFF WRITER

The Alabama Ethics Committee released an opinion on the new ethics law on Dec. 7 that has left parents and students wondering what they can give to teachers during the holidays.

“Anyone being paid by tax-payer money is affected, not just teachers,” said Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana.

“If we want ethical government this is what we’ve got to do. Most teachers that I’ve spoken with don’t understand or didn’t know that it affects all government employees not just them.”

Hill said that there is likely to be a bill to exclude teachers from the law next year but there is no guarantee.

According to the law, students may still give teachers gifts, but they can’t be anything of significant monetary value. Shelby County Schools spokeswoman, Cindy Warner, said that a class can still take up money for a gift card for the teacher but the amount collected must be below $10 per student.

“Parents and students should try to avoid spending more than $10 on a teacher present,” said Warner.

Gary Minnick, principle of Vincent Middle/High School, sais that he does not want to see any teacher face criminal charges for accepting a gift from a student.

“I think the opinion has gone a little further than the actual law itself. I don’t think that it was done maliciously, but our teachers are just going to have to cope with the situation as best as they can.”

Minnick also said that teachers are talking about the new law amongst themselves but no real issues have surfaced yet.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, believes that the Alabama Ethics Committee may have gone too far in their interpretation of the law.

“I think it’s absurd, I’m not sure the government has any business regulating what little kids give their teachers. The law treats everybody the same. The ethics commission just went to far in their interpretation and as legislators it is our responsibility to fix that.”