Friday Freak Show
I've heard of policies limiting gifts from students to teachers, but who would have thought that a policy limiting gifts from teachers to students would be necessary? This because of one
During the three years that he allegedly was molesting a student, a Maynard High School teacher showered him with gifts, including two cars, music equipment, and cash, court records say.The really sad thing is that it's due to the actions of people like
"Obviously, in hindsight, the gifts should have raised a red flag," said Bill Kohlman, chairman of the Maynard School Committee.
As a result of this case, Maynard has become one of only a few communities in the western suburbs to enact explicit rules on teachers' gifts to students. The School Committee last month unanimously approved a policy that caps at $200 the total value of gifts a teacher can present to a student in an academic year.
Meanwhile, the teacher whose actions prompted the rule, Joseph Magno , faces trial Jan. 22. Magno, 65, remains confined to his Hudson home, monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet, according to the Middlesex district attorney's office. He has denied the allegations against him through his attorney, Don DeMayo.
Before his arrest in January, Magno was held in high esteem as the founder of Maynard High's radio station, WAVM, and as the friend and mentor of students for more than four decades. An advisor to the radio station, he was known for his generosity, buying students dinners, taking them bowling and to movies, and paying their way on trips as far away as Florida.
Superintendent Mark Masterson said Magno's case was the impetus for change.
"The School Committee wanted to take a step back and reflect, look at this issue and craft a thoughtful policy," said Masterson. "When we became aware of this issue, we wanted to make sure that checks and balances were in place."
Kohlman said the committee wanted to make sure the policy was not so restrictive as to limit "a teacher's ability to reward a student who has really worked hard, or encourage a student who is struggling."
Under the new policy, teachers have to notify their principal in writing before giving a student anything with a value of $20 or more.
"This was a way to put controls on this practice without having teachers reporting that they gave elementary students a pencil or stickers," said Kohlman.
Exemptions are allowed for teachers who are presenting gifts to students who are also relatives. Also exempt are students who benefit from fund-raisers, such as someone recovering from an accident.
School districts outside Maynard are not so sure that such a policy is needed. Of the 37 communities served by Globe West, only a handful regulate gift giving between students and teachers.
The Berlin-Boylston district has had a policy on the books since 1985 about employees accepting gifts, but nothing about teachers giving gifts to students. Most districts, including Framingham and Nashoba Regional, rely on sexual harassment policies and teacher conduct codes to regulate gifts to students.
Bellingham Superintendent Chris Mattocks said his district abides by the State Ethics Commission statute that officials are not allowed to give gifts over $50 in value.
"I have been in this district for five years, and it has never been an issue," Mattocks said.
Other superintendents, such as Wayland's Gary Burton, said although their districts have no official policy on the matter, "we do have a professional code of ethics to guide us."
But officials in Maynard say they would rather have the policy explicitly stated than be surprised again.
"This is not an effort to restrict the generosity of our staff, but rather make sure that there is some kind of oversight," said Kohlman.