As Workshop 2016 approaches, school officials are reminded of the School Ethics Commission’s policy guideline regarding acceptance of meals and entertainment at conferences.
Policy Guideline No. 1, issued shortly after the School Ethics Act went into effect in 1992, prohibits school officials and their immediate families from accepting offers of meals and entertainment that are limited to clients and customers of a vendor. In establishing this guideline, the commission stated: “The commission has concluded that the hospitality and amenities extended to individual clients and customers are offered for the express purpose of creating a feeling of goodwill, which it is hoped will influence the recipient to favorably consider their product or retain their professional services. For the school official this offer falls within the ambit of the acceptance of a gift or favor designed to influence the school official in the discharge of his or her official duties.”
The School Ethics Commission concluded that such offers of meals or entertainment made by vendors to school officials would constitute a violation of state law (NJSA 18A:12-24 (e)), except that vendors could provide hospitality suites or receptions that are open to all persons attending a conference, convention or workshop.
The School Ethics Act pertains to board members, charter school trustees, school administrators, and officers and professional staff of the New Jersey School Boards Association in its definition of “school official.” In addition, a “member of the immediate family” is defined as the spouse or dependent child of a school official residing in the same household.
School officials are encouraged to consult with their board attorney on the impact of Policy Guideline No. 1 on their Workshop activities.