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There are fine distinctions to be made in the area of civil rights and allegations of racial discrimination. Such a determination has been made regarding claims of discrimination in the Cape Girardeau School District: The U.S. Office of Civil Rights could find no basis for the complaints.

Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Education looked into the same complaints, which had been filed by the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The department never issued a report.

The Cape Girardeau Board of Education is pleased that the Office of Civil Rights probe turned out the way it did. The board also has agreed to provide updates to the Office of Civil Rights regarding all high school disciplinary referrals and to continue training for staff members regarding discipline and dropout policies.

The NAACP complaint made several allegations regarding special-education students at May Greene Elementary School, suspensions at Central High School and dropouts at the high school. These were serious charges, and two federal agencies gave them equally serious consideration. In the process, the school district cooperated and provided information necessary to conclude the probe.

It is unfortunate that the NAACP thought situations had occurred that resulted in discrimination. As with many findings, there may be members of the black community who still believe there are problems in spite of the federal findings. These are issues that deserve to be aired fully and completely in meetings between representatives of the black community and the school district. This dialogue, apart from an official complaint or inquiry, could go a long way in providing a clearer understanding of the concerns that were raised -- and a clearer understanding of the school district's efforts to deal with those concerns.