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Should Schools Limit Teacher Gifts?

Teacher gift-giving etiquette has been set from on high in Westport this year. Last week, Superintendent Elliot Landon sent a note to all parents asking them to limit their teacher gifts.

"We ask parents to refrain from giving, and staff members to refrain from accepting, items of more than nominal cost," Landon wrote in an email to parents. "If one desires to do so, the cost of an individual gift should not exceed $5." The staff is allowed to accept cookies, handmade gifts or greeting cards with personal notes. The policy's purpose, according to Landon, is to prevent embarrassment of families who cannot or choose not to give gifts.

The purpose of the letter is probably also to stop parents from going overboard. A $5 policy means no expensive spa treatments, high tech gadgets,  theater tickets or fancy crystal vases. Westport is not the only district to put restrictions on gifts. In New York City, Chancellor Joel Klein put a $5 limit on teacher gifts several years ago. In Massachusetts, a state law prevents public servants, including teachers, from receiving any gifts valued at more than $50, including class gifts.

Norwalk has no guidelines from its superintendent. Some parents bring in their own gifts. Of course, there are the ubiquitous candles, ornaments or "#1 teacher" mugs. How many of those do you think a veteran teacher has stowed away? Room parents sometimes organize teacher gifts. This year, I've been asked to contribute cash for class gifts, which will go toward gift cards. Teachers have told me they like the gift cards. Many say they use them to buy books and supplies for their classroom instead of indulging in personal gifts.

Do you agree with the Westport policy? Is $5 too little? Have you noticed gifts going overboard in your schools?

What do you do for teacher gifts? Are teacher gifts not necessary, especially in tough economic times? Do you have creative ideas for teacher gifts that don't cost much?

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