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City School Suspensions Outpace D.C. by 10,000

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The first step to recovery is acknowledging you have a problem.

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Yvonne Brandon last month acknowledged that out-of-school suspensions were among the system's myriad woes.

“Regardless of whether it's 13,000 or 5,000 or 2,000 [in-school suspensions] … it's too many” Brandon said. “Which means it demands our attention.”

Actually, it's at least 13,500, according to the city's own numbers, in a school system with total enrollment of fewer than 24,000.

An even bigger step to recovery is acknowledging a problem before it gets too big to handle.

Take the struggling Washington school district, where Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee told The Washington Post last week that suspensions occur “far too frequently” in her district, too.

The D.C. district has 46,000 students — nearly twice Richmond's enrollment. Rhee recently committed to a new student code of conduct to help avoid a repeat of the 2007-'08 school year when the district issued a whopping 2,245 suspensions.

Like Richmond, the D.C. district's actual suspension figures remain something of a mystery, due to inconsistency in reporting (various Richmond leaders and parents allege suspensions here often occur outside of officially reported channels). D.C. schools spokeswoman Dena Iverson concedes the district's 2,245 figure might actually be higher, possibly by hundreds.

But, Iverson says confidently, “I don't believe we're in the 13,000 range.”

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