WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Police patrolled a racially torn high school Thursday to stop gun play and brawling sparked by the appearance of a racial slur in the school yearbook.
New Hanover High School officials said tensions started building Wednesday after copies of the 1985 Hanoverian were distributed and students spotted the phrase 'Kill Nigger Babes' in the background of a photograph in the book.
The slur is scribbled on a graffiti-covered sheet in the background of a photo of seven white students holding aloft mugs and cans of beer.
Students said the photo prompted several brawls near the school, and one student, Michael Carver 18, was charged Wednesday with firing a .22-caliber pistol into the ground after he was surrounded by a group of black students.
Wilmington Police Chief Darryl Bruestle said no fights were reported on school property, but three uniformed officers patrolled the school 'to prevent any kind of overreaction. We're not taking sides.'
The yearbook staff handed out written apologies to the school's 1,430 students for the photograph and expressed regrets over the public address system. About 32 percent of the students are black.
Faculty advisor Sam Garner said no one had noticed the slur before the book was published.
'When a black student showed me the graffiti Tuesday, a day after the yearbooks were issued, I almost passed out,' Garner said. 'We were missing deadline, we were losing money and we needed pictures. I looked at it, and it didn't show anybody drinking, so I said use it.'
'It was a human error that we all regret,' said principal Robert Moore.
Black students accused the predominantly white yearbook staff of sloppy work and poor editorial judgment.
'I don't think the picture should have been in there in the first place. They've got them drinking beer and they're always telling us not to drink,' said junior Harry Lee Hall.
'It's set the blacks back 20 years,' said sophomore Glen Parsons.
But junior James Toney said he thinks new disturbances over the photograph are unlikely.
'The white people that I liked before, I like now,' he said. 'Three words don't mean a thing.'