Teachers in Texas face numerous challenges in the course of practicing their chosen profession. Licensed educators have dedicated themselves to one of the most important—and, sometimes, thankless—of professions in our society. So when teachers find themselves facing allegations of impropriety that threatens their license, which in turn puts them at threat of losing both work and income, it is absolutely imperative that they hire an experienced professional license attorney to give them the best change possible to continue in their vocation. One allegation that may cause a teacher unforeseen problems is the accepting of a gift that is claimed to impair their personal judgment.
The Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), a subsidiary of the Texas Education Agency, is called upon to enforce the Educator’s Code of Ethics—found in Texas Administrative Code section 247.2. The prohibitions on teacher behavior are numerous. Among these are the prohibition from engaging in deceptive or fraudulent practices; from misappropriating school privileges or property; from sexual misconduct; from physically mistreating a student; and from revealing confidential information about a student. Also included is the abovementioned prohibition from accepting a gift that may impair personal judgment.
Of all these prohibitions, this last may be the most difficult for a teacher to spot as a problem, because unlike the other issues, where the line to be crossed is fairly clear, this would appear to be an issue with a high degree of subjectivity. Children often enjoy giving gifts to their teachers to show them that they care and that they appreciate them. Could there be anything more heartwarming? Does this count as a gift a teacher should not accept—since it might cause them to feel more warmly toward that student in return?
Probably not. The basic element that SBEC is likely to take into account is whether the gift being given to a teacher is of considerable value. Gifts of major value may be considered to create unspoken agreements that, in exchange for this gift, the teacher will give the student preferential treatment or consideration. Something homemade or of very little value has less of an explicit quid pro quo cast to it. However, the Texas Classroom Teachers’ Association, in its setting of limits, has avoided placing an explicit dollar amount on gifts that must be rejected. This can create a good deal of confusion for the Texas educator.
So if you are a teacher who has accepted a gift in good faith but finds yourself charged by the SBEC with accepting something that could impair your judgment, you will want an experienced professional license defense attorney at your side to give you the best chance of keeping your license.
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BERTOLINO LLP proudly represents licensed professionals across the entire State of Texas. To best serve our clients we have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. If you are facing disciplinary action from a professional licensing board or state agency, contact us today or call (512) 717-5432 and schedule a case evaluation.