AUSTIN (KXAN) - For more than two months, the school day for 12-year-old Rebekah Aylor means remaining confined in a cubicle that isolates her from fellow students.
"I sit in the chair for eight hours straight, almost," said Rebekah, who is serving what's called "in-school suspension" -- or ISS -- at North Austin's Canyon Vista Middle School in th Round Rock school district.
Rebekah is not a typical trouble-maker. In fact, she's an A-student who was sent to ISS for dyeing her bright red and refusing to return it to the natural color. Her mother, Candace Aylor, said the in-school suspension is a waste of time and effort.
"I really don't understand the logic in placing a child in ISS for this length of time," she said. "What is the end goal?"
And even the state's top education official and recent research by the Council of State Governments Justice Center suggest the policy might actually be doing more harm than good.
"We've had multiple districts that suspended youngsters 100 days or more in a school year, that's more than half of the school year," Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams said in a March 8 speech in Dallas.
Williams called the practice of taking kids out of class "excessive" and Research shows when students are removed from the classroom for bad behavior, their odds of repeating a grade, dropping out, or becoming involved in the juvenile justice system increase dramatically.
JoyLynn Occhiuzz, a spokeswoman the Round Rock district, said the purpose of in-school suspension is to get the attention of wayward students and help put them back on the right path.
"It's really a place where you need to do some reflection on what landed you in that position," she said.
But simply suspending trouble-making students from their school is not necessarily the answer. In Pflugerville, Assistant Superintendent Terence Eaton said he has seen negative side effects to sending students home for punishment.
"Really, does that benefit the kid?" Eaton said. "They're home watching television, watching XBox."
Eaton oversees PISD's Provan Learning Center. This year, for the first time, the district is offering middle school students a temporary seat in the alternative school where certified teachers are trying to keep kids from falling behind.
But out of the 570 out-of-school suspensions so far this year, only 61 parents have opted to send their kids to what is essentially off-campus ISS.
The Austin school district is taking a different approach with at least with kids who have been suspended but do not pose a safety risk. Before, all suspended students would have been sent to the Alternative Learning Center for at least a month.
But the new policy allows kids who qualify to remain at the own schools, but in a different setting. Alternative classes with specialized teachers keep the kids on their regular curriculum so they don't fall behind their peers.
"I've taught everything from seventh-grade math through (advanced-placement) calculus, said Annie Freeman, one of those teachers. In the past she said, students "would basically sit there for a long time and not receive very much instruction at all."
Kids in the alternative on-campus program also have a chance to get back to normal life faster if they show sufficient progress. One key piece to the program -- each child is paired with a behavioral counselor to get to the root of the problem and to keep them from making same mistakes.
The numbers show it's working.
Last year, AISD sent nearly 1,400 students o the alternative school. This year, only 933 were sent.
Austin ISD will be evaluating their new program at the end of the year to see if it's helping students stay on the right track.
Freeman told of one success story. "When (the student) did return to the classroom, she was able to keep on doing well and I know she got excited because she made A/B honor roll for like the first time, I guess, in her high school career."
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