BALLINGER - School safety and tobacco, drug and alcohol use were the topics of discussion on Thursday, June 21 during a biannual meeting the Ballinger ISD Advisory Board, which brings educators, administrators, community members, students and parents together twice a year for an update on federal funding.

BALLINGER - School safety and tobacco, drug and alcohol use were the topics of discussion on Thursday, June 21 during a biannual meeting the Ballinger ISD Advisory Board, which brings educators, administrators, community members, students and parents together twice a year for an update on federal funding.

Caroline Toliver, program and curriculum director for BISD organized the meeting and discussed federal funding from Title I, II, IV and other programs. The high school administrators nominated the students, including juniors and seniors from Ballinger High School, to serve on the committee and provide input from the students' point of view on a variety of issues.

“Your willingness to share and give us some insight on the kids that are coming in behind you is commended,” Butts said. “We thank you for agreeing to that.”

Toliver discussed the Title IA funds which totals $301,000 and is primarily spent on programs at Ballinger Elementary. The funding is based on free and reduced lunch applications. This year, there was $48,000 left over and during the meeting, the student panel and administrators discussed where the funds might best be used. The suggestion was made to put the funds toward character education programs for junior high and high school students.

“There’s a plethora of choices there,” Butts said. “This would enable us to bring some new programs into our school.”

Even though grant funds are no longer available from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, the district still provides data on drug, alcohol and tobacco use and disciplinary actions at all of the district's campuses.

During the meeting, the panel reviewed the Student Disciplinary Action Summary for the 2016-17 school year. The data showed that drug, alcohol, tobacco use were virtually non-existent at the elementary level at from 1-33 percent, with the same tally for the junior high students. In grades 9-12 drug, alcohol and tobacco use was reported at a moderate level at 34-66 percent. During that school year, there were 296 Code of Conduct violations, which included 31 incidents of fighting.

Toward the end of the meeting, students offered insight into how district officials can monitor behavioral issues as well as drug, alcohol and tobacco use.

Mike Nunez, assistant principal of BHS, asked the student panelists what types of deterrents would be effective at the high school. Currently, students who participate in extracurricular activities are drug tested.

“Is drug testing a deterrent?” Nunez asked.

“Sometimes it scares them, but they just keep doing it,” one female advisory member offered. She added that the administration develop a tough punishment policy for any offenders.

“If we see something that shows us what is going to happen to our future maybe that will have an effect on them,” she said.

The students stressed that often, parents aren’t putting their foot down. A suggestion was made to expand drug testing to include students who park on campus.

Also during the meeting, students indicated that tobacco products such as vapes and snuff along with alcohol were the most common substances they saw their peers using.

Butts reminded the students that the Anonymous Alert system which is set up on the Ballinger ISD website has helped in deterring incidents since its implementation last year.

“We get on that immediately when an alert is posted,” Butts told them.

Other program funds discussed during the meeting included $34,000 in Title II funding for training and recruiting teachers, principals and other school leaders; $17,000 for Title IV Part A; $176,000 for IDEA B Special Education funds and $84,000 for Head Start programs.