The Arlington County School Board is considering a policy on gifts that would limit the amount parents can spend on teachers to $100 over the course of a school year.
The new policy would establish a financial cap for the first time and clarify previous guidance.
“This isn’t a big problem, but there have been instances where very expensive gifts have been given to staff members, and it has raised an issue,” board Chairman Abby Raphael said when the revised policy was proposed in September.
School officials had originally suggested a $50 cap, but many community members said it was too low. The school system solicited feedback from multiple groups, including the PTA, employee associations and principals.
The policy defines gifts as things given to any school employee for “personal use or benefit.”
The definition of gifts does not include homemade gifts such as cookies; funds given to teachers to buy classroom supplies; funds given to promote professional development; and Teacher of the Year or other types of awards.
The PTA and other organizations would be subject to the rules. But the policy does not prohibit employees from sharing gifts among employees. Parents can also pool resources to give a more generous gift.
Other school systems approach gift-giving differently, according to an informal survey of school districts by The Washington Post in 2011. Prince George’s County requires teachers to disclose gifts worth more than $25. Montgomery County has a $25 limit on gifts.
At a board meeting Thursday, member Emma Violand-Sanchez said she would like to review of how gift-giving varies among schools serving different income levels.
“Now the holidays are arriving, I know there are significant differences” between high-income and low-income schools, she said.
Vice Chair James Lander said he hopes people do not try to game the policy.
“I want to make sure the spirit of what we’re trying to do comes across, which is we don’t want extravagant giving or some imbalance in how parents influence grades or interactions or access to teachers,” he said.
The policy is slated for a vote Dec. 19.