When a Maynard High School teacher gave three students his used Ford Mustangs, bought them dinner or invited them to his home, it should have raised alarm bells, say school officials in nearby towns.
"Itís just not good professional behavior," said Eugene Carlo, superintendent of the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School.
Thomas Davoren, Milford superintendent, said none of his teachers give such extravagant gifts to students.
"I think that common sense and prudence dictate that you donít do that," he said. "It would send up a red flag because it would just not be a prudent thing to do....Anyone, parents or in the community, that became aware of that would say thatís not appropriate."
Maynard High School teacher Joseph Magno, 65, is accused of sexually abusing a 17-year-old student when the boy was in eighth grade and a sophomore.
Magnoís attorney, Donald DeMayo of Lexington, said Magno was close friends with the boy and his family and that Magno gave the alleged victim a Ford Mustang and vacationed with them in Florida after the rape was alleged to have occurred.
DeMayo has said his client is simply a generous man who took a personal interest in his students.
Magno pleaded not guilty Monday from his bed in Emerson Hospital after being arrested Friday night and then hospitalized for unspecified ailments.
The longtime teacher has been transferred to Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain where he is being held pending a dangerousness hearing in Concord District Court today. While the case progresses, Magno has been ordered to have no contact with witnesses or anyone under 16 years old.
Magno has been teaching for 42 years and is well-known and respected for his work as faculty adviser to the Maynard High School radio and television station WAVM. The station has raised tens of thousands of dollars each year for the needy through the Beacon Santa Telethon.
"He had an extraordinary reputation. Heís known in the whole region as being a very talented professional," said Hudson Superintendent Sheldon Berman.
But handing over the keys to a Mustang is over the line, he said.
"When I was teaching, I never gave a student a gift," Berman said. A much bigger issue in Hudson schools is convincing parents they do not need to show their appreciation for their childís teacher with a present during the holidays.
"We have more of a concern about (teachers) getting gifts than giving gifts," he said.
Holliston teachers may give their students a token when they graduate or advance to the next grade, said Superintendent Brad Jackson, but "it obviously has to be done in an appropriate way and above board."
"Itís important we donít overreact and remember there are many caring teachers out there who care about their students and want to encourage their success." A ban on gifts is not necessary, Jackson said.
Schools, as a whole, have no formal policies about gifts to students. Itís just common sense not to give cars, administrators said. The same can be said for hanging out outside of school.
"Kids have contact with teachers before and after school, athletics and the arts and advisory and all that, but I think very little contact beyond that," said Framingham Superintendent Chris Martes.
The accusations brought forward in Maynard, however disturbing, can occur in any school district.
"Itís a good school system. Itís a good town. They have good leadership," said Carlo, Assabetís superintendent. "All towns, all schools, live in glass houses. We all pray things of this nature do not pop up in our communities."
Maynard Superintendent of Schools Mark Masterson did not respond to requests for an interview