An Alabama teacher who accepts a Christmas ham or a $25 gift card from a student is breaking Alabama’s ethics law. The possible penalty? Up to a year in jail and a $6,000 fine for the teacher who accepts the gift, the Associated Press reports. The law, which took effect earlier this year and is considered one of the toughest in the country, limits what public officials and employees can receive as gifts to a “de minimis” value, but it doesn’t define that amount. With most schools about to get out for the holidays, the State Ethics Commission has been flooded with calls about what students can give.

“The bottom line for me is, our teachers are being forced to make a decision between breaking the law or breaking a child’s heart,” said Amy O’Neal, a teacher at Pine Crest Elementary School about 30 miles southeast of Birmingham.

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staff and wire services reports