Schools still give free tickets

Published 12:04 am Friday, September 2, 2011

Opp is one of the systems in the state who are still giving free tickets to ball games. | File photo

Throughout the state, high school principals and superintendents are struggling to decide who to let into football games this year, but that’s not the case here.

In the massive ethics reform bill passed last year in a special-called legislative session, lawmakers sought to prohibit themselves from accepting tickets to games such as the Iron Bowl.

The act specifically bans free admission to “a sporting event offered by an educational institution to anyone other than faculty, staff or administration of the institution.”

Early on, the state superintendents association said that teachers from feeder schools, which are elementary and middle schools, would be required to pay.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said the latest correspondence sent to his office says that teachers and school staff are employees of the institution, which is the board of education.

“Under this interpretation, they are granted complimentary admission to athletic contests and other extracurricular activities,” Smithart said. “We passed a board policy on this matter because a legal opinion provides that only the school board can determine who receives free admission to school events.

“Our interpretation of that ruling is that the employee’s presence can contribute to the overall climate and moral of the school because we want to support our students in everything they do,” he said. “We passed the policy to provide some clarity for our administrators. What we are doing with regard to granting complementary admission to staff is no different from what we have done in the past.”

Smithart said OCS does not grant complementary admission to family members.

“I might add that I don’t believe the legislature intended a $6 football ticket to be a ‘thing of value,’” he said. “This appears to be an unintended consequence, and I think it will be sorted out soon.”

Hugh Evans, the state ethics commission attorney told media sources recently that the commission is likely to support the state school board association’s argument that employees within a school system should be admitted for free. However, the commission has no jurisdiction over family members.

A formal option will not be issued until the commission convenes on Oct. 5.