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Policy 2070 - Ethics

The purpose of this policy is to support the Ethics Regulations by articulating the importance of ethical conduct by Board members and employees of the HCPSS in the governance and operation of the school system, to establish standards of conduct, and to publicize those standards to the school community.

Policy Document

I. Policy Statement

The Board of Education recognizes that the success of a public school system is dependent upon citizens having the highest trust in their public officials and employees. The Board expects its employees to conduct themselves in a trustworthy and ethical manner at all times in the performance of their duties and responsibilities. Accordingly, citizens have a right to be assured that the Board, the Superintendent, and Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) employees maintain impartiality and independence of judgment in the performance of duties and responsibilities.

Ethics and ethical standards are regulated by this policy, by the Implementation Procedures of the policy, as well as by the Ethics Regulations. The Board’s Ethics Regulations establish expected behavior for all instructional and non-instructional personnel, administrative and supervisory personnel, Board of Education members, employees, and consultants (henceforth referred to as Board members and employees). These Ethics Regulations have been issued in accordance with Maryland law, which requires all Boards of Education to adopt the Ethics Regulations. Board members and employees will be subject to the Ethics Regulations, which address the school system’s commitment to leading and teaching by example, and to serving as role models for students. Through these Ethics Regulations, the Board sets minimum ethical standards of conduct for itself and school system employees.

II. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to support the Ethics Regulations by articulating the importance of ethical conduct by Board members and employees of the HCPSS in the governance and operation of the school system, to establish standards of conduct, and to publicize those standards to the school community.

III. Definitions

Within the context of this policy, the following definitions apply:

  1. Advisory Opinion – An opinion rendered by the Ethics Panel as to the applicability of the Ethics Regulations to conduct or actions by those persons as set forth in the Ethics Regulations, Section I. An advisory opinion may include cautionary advice regarding situations which by their nature require only a minor change of circumstances to become an actual conflict.

  2. Compensation – Any money or thing of value, regardless of form, received or to be received by any individual covered by the Ethics Regulations from an employer for services rendered. If lobbying is only a portion of a person’s employment, compensation means a prorated amount based upon the time devoted to lobbying compared to the time devoted to other employment duties. For reporting purposes, a prorated amount will be labeled as such.

  3. Complaint – Written assertion of an alleged violation of the Ethics Policy and/or the Ethics Regulations of the HCPSS on the part of anyone covered by the Ethics Regulations; may be filed by any person or persons.

  4. Confidential Information includes the following:

    1. Records protected against release or distribution by a federal, state, or controlling law;

    2. Attorney-client privileged material and attorney work product, unless legally waived by the party controlling the privilege;

    3. Identifying information concerning the Requestor of an Advisory Opinion from the Ethics Panel;

    4. All information regarding a complaint filed with the Ethics Panel unless otherwise authorized for release by the Board of Education.

  5. Employee – An individual whose compensation is paid in whole or part by the Board and/or an individual who is a student teacher, an intern, or an independent contractor for the school system.

  6. Ethics – The rules and standards of conduct.

  7. Ethics Panel – A five member committee established by the Ethics Regulations in compliance with Maryland state law and approved by the Board.

  8. Financial interest –

    1. Ownership of any interest as the result of which the owner has received, within the past three years, or is presently receiving, or in the future is entitled to receive more than $1,000.00 per year.

    2. Ownership, or the ownership of securities of any kind representing or convertible into ownership, of more than three percent of a business entity, whichever is greater.

  9. Fraud and Abuse – Obtaining property owned by or under the control of the Board by means of false pretenses or representation including, but not limited to, bribery, kickbacks, illegal acts, forgery, theft, or embezzlement.

  10. Gift – The transfer of any service or object of economic value regardless of form without adequate and lawful consideration. The term also includes forgiveness of debts or the waiver or forgiveness of interest on any loan or obligation obtained from those doing business with the Board. The term "gift" does not include the solicitation or receipt of political campaign contributions regulated in accordance with the provisions of Article 33, 26-1 et seq., Annotated Code of Maryland, or other items excluded by the HCPSS regulations or any other provision of state or local law regulating the conduct of elections or the receipt of political campaign contributions, as may be amended from time to time.

  11. Immediate Family – means a spouse, domestic partner, and dependent children.

  12. Lobbying –

    1. Communicating in the presence of a school official or employee with the intent to influence any official action of that official or employee, where more than $75.00 is spent for food, entertainment, or other gifts during the calendar year to further this activity.

    2. Engaging in activities having the express purpose of soliciting others to communicate with a school official or employee with the intent to influence that official or employee, where more than $75.00 is spent to further these activities.

  13. Personal Benefit – Anything that promotes or enhances the well-being of an individual or his/her immediate family or that accrues to the personal advantage of that individual or his/her immediate family.

  14. Superintendent – The person in the HCPSS designated as the Superintendent pursuant to Par. 1-101(e) of the Education Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.

  15. Tutoring – Private instruction or services for a student provided by an employee for compensation.

IV. Standards

  1. All Board members and employees will conduct their duties and responsibilities, while in the employ of the HCPSS, in a responsible and ethical manner that reflects and exemplifies their position of public trust.

  2. All Board members and employees will maintain impartiality and independent judgment in carrying out their duties.

  3. All Board members and employees will report any violation of the Ethics Policy or the Ethics Regulations to the Ethics Panel.

  4. It is the responsibility of all Board members and employees to be alert for any indications of fraud and abuse involving HCPSS funds or property.

    The following procedures will be followed for all Board members and employees reporting fraud and abuse:

    1. Notification: any individual who has knowledge of an occurrence of fraud and abuse, or has reason to suspect that such an event has occurred, will notify his/her immediate supervisor. If there is reason to believe that this supervisor may be involved, the employee will instead notify his/her supervisor’s supervisor, principal, program manager, or director.

    2. Investigation: the supervisor, principal, program manager, or director will follow HCPSS policies and procedures and will notify the Internal Auditor and, as appropriate, the executive staff member and the Coordinator of School Security. With the advice of the Coordinator of School Security and legal services, the supervisor will consult with law enforcement personnel, prior to investigation, to review whether the investigation will impinge on a criminal investigation.

      The investigation will ensure that due process is provided to the employee. After investigation, the supervisor will determine whether disciplinary action is warranted. Any disciplinary action will be issued in accordance with HCPSS policies and procedures.

    3. Confidentiality: any information reported will be considered confidential and every effort will be made to protect the identity of the person reporting, unless the information is needed for law enforcement or other purposes. The Board will ensure that employees reporting such allegations will be protected from any retaliatory acts for doing so.

    4. Protection Against Retaliation: no action or reprisals may be taken against an employee reporting a suspected violation in good faith.

  5. The Board requires certain school officials (Board members and candidates, the Superintendent, and those listed in the Ethics Regulations IX.A.) to disclose certain financial interests to guard against improper influence.

  6. A Board member providing testimony to another entity represents only the individual views of that Board member and does not speak on behalf of the entire Board unless the Board member has been previously designated by the Board to be its representative.

  7. All Board members and employees have the right to participate in political and governmental affairs in the manner afforded all other citizens: the right to vote, the right to be an active member of a political party, the right to campaign for election to public office, and the right to seek and serve in public office.

    1. The following activities are specifically prohibited on HCPSS property, except by guidelines established by the Board, Superintendent, Board of Elections, bargaining units, and Policy 2010 - Student Representation governing the Student Member of the Board and candidates for Student Member of the Board:

      1. Posting of political circulars or petitions.

      2. The use of any school or office help, telephones, supplies, or equipment.

    2. All Board members and employees, excluding the Student Member of the Board or students running for the Student Member of the Board, who are seeking or holding public office or campaigning for a political candidate:

      1. Must not conduct campaign activities within the staff workplace or while staff is engaged in HCPSS business.

      2. May not associate their HCPSS position with the endorsement of any candidate.

      3. May not require any HCPSS student to participate in political campaigns for the employee or for any specific political party, candidate, or political issue which the employee is promoting.

  8. If a conflict arises between a provision in this ethics policy and the terms of the Ethics Regulations, the provisions of the Ethics Regulations will supersede and be applied.

  9. Detailed and/or specific information regarding any of the standards can be obtained from the Ethics Regulations.

  10. All opinions, findings and recommendations by the Ethics Panel will be provided to the Board.

  11. An annual report on the activities of the Ethics Panel will be provided for the Board.

  12. In the event of receipt of a complaint of an ethics violation, the Ethics Panel will consider the complaint in accordance with this policy and with the Ethics Regulations.

  13. If a situation arises in which any individual is concerned that his/her actions may be a violation, they should contact legal services, who will advise the employee of an advisory opinion. If the question is clearly allowed by the Ethics Policy or the Ethics Regulations or prior rulings by the Ethics Panel, the legal services may share those standards and rulings with the individual.

  14. All Board members and employees may seek an advisory opinion from the Ethics Panel.

    1. The Board encourages employees to be proactive in seeking assistance from the Ethics Panel to determine an appropriate course of action to resolve potential ethical issues because, by their nature, some ethical issues and conflicts of interest are difficult to discern.

    2. The Board has established a process which enables employees to seek an advisory opinion from the Ethics Panel when the employee is uncertain if activities, or planned activities, comply with the Ethics Regulations. Employees are encouraged to use this process, especially prior to committing to any action if an ethical issue is present. Employees acting in accordance with an Ethics Panel advisory opinion, with full disclosure of relevant information, will not be subject to disciplinary action if that opinion is later found to be in violation of this ethics policy.

  15. Violations will result in consequences in accordance with this policy and with the Ethics Regulations.

  16. Violations of this policy or the Ethics Regulations can include, but not be limited to:

    1. Tutoring a current student of the employee for private compensation.

    2. Soliciting gifts of any value.

    3. Accepting a gift in violation of Section VII. C of the Ethics Regulations. An unsolicited gift of $20.00 or less in cost is not a violation, unless the gift would tend to impair the impartiality and independence of judgment of the person receiving the gift.

    4. Holding outside employment in an area of responsibility that would impair their impartiality or independence of judgment.

    5. Intentionally disclosing confidential information to an unauthorized recipient or using confidential information for one’s own benefit or that of another.

    6. Participating in a matter which would have a financial impact on them or their immediate family.

    7. Intentionally using one’s prestige of office or position for one’s own private gain or that of another.

  17. All bidders and potential vendors doing business with the HCPSS will be notified in writing of section VII.C. of the Ethics Regulations and will be advised that giving or offering a gift or series of gifts to a Board official or employee who is subject to these regulations is improper and may result in disqualification from future work on the grounds that the donor/offeror is no longer a responsible bidder or vendor.

V. Responsibilities

  1. Legal counsel will serve as liaison to the HCPSS Ethics Panel and ensure that the appropriate reports, opinions, findings and recommendations are provided to the Board in a timely manner.

  2. Members of the Ethics Panel will abide by the duties, responsibilities, and rules of the Ethics Regulations.

  3. The Office of Human Resources will ensure that all new Board members and employees receive a copy of this ethics policy and the Ethics Regulations.

VI. Delegation of Authority

The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures for the implementation of this policy.

VII. References

  • Howard County Public School System Ethics Regulations

  • The Maryland Open Meetings Act

  • The Annotated Code of Maryland

  • Article 33, 26-1 et seq.

  • Election Law Article, Title 10 Subtitle 1

  • Election Law Article, Title 13 Subtitle 2

  • Education Article, Par. 1-101(e)

C. Relevant Data Sources

D. Other

  • Superintendent’s circular on political activities on school property

VIII. History

ADOPTED: November 4, 2010

MODIFIED: January 10, 2013

REVISED:

EFFECTIVE: January 10, 2013