Bentley calls for teacher exemption from ethics law

Published 8:43 am Friday, December 16, 2011

Giving your schoolteacher a Christmas gift seems like a harmless gesture, right? Perhaps not, according to an opinion issued by the state Ethics Commission last week.

Gov. Robert Bentley called on the Legislature on Wednesday to amend the ethics law to make it clear that teachers may receive seasonal gifts. The current law restricts public officials from accepting certain types of gifts. The Ethics Commission has stated that the law covers public officials and public employees equally, including K-12 teachers.

“We appreciate our teachers. They work hard all year to provide our children with the best education possible,” Bentley said.

“All year we ask them to do a lot with a little. And if parents or students want to show their gratitude by giving those teachers a gift during the holiday season, they ought to be allowed to do that. We need to make sure the law is clear. Teachers shouldn’t be considered lawbreakers if they receive a gift from a student. ”

Senators Tom Whatley, Cam Ward, Gerald Dial and Slade Blackwell will co-sponsor a bill to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session that would further define how the law applies to teachers.

“We agree with Governor Bentley and the need to make sure the law is clear so teachers, parents and students understand that Christmas gifts, seasonal gifts and classroom donations to teachers and their classrooms from students, parents and grandparents are perfectly acceptable,” said Sen. Tom Whatley.

“Ethics reform was designed to curtail corruption among elected officials; it was never intended to have government act as a nanny state for little children giving appreciation gifts to their teachers,” said Sen. Cam Ward.

“I agree with Governor Bentley and I appreciate Senator Whatley’s efforts to amend this law, and I join them in this effort,” said Sen. Gerald Dial.

The Alabama Ethics Law was passed and signed in December 2010, and went into effect in March 2011.