Principal Wesley Revels, who fainted during a student protest Wednesday morning, is recovering at home. There did not appear to be any problems at the school early this morning. Students were not protesting.
To prevent any further problems, the school would be on "semi-lockdown" today, Harding said. School is not in session on Friday.
The starting time for Purnell Swett's home football game against Lumberton on Friday has been moved to 6 p.m.. Additional lighting, additional concession stands and a dozen sheriff's deputies will be at the game.
The county school board held an emergency meeting Wednesday to address this week's problems, which so far have resulted in 19 suspensions and 14 arrests. Some board members said that racial issues are the root of the problem, while others said the word "racism" is being used too loosely. The fights primarily involved Indian and black students.
Sheriff Glenn Maynor, Lt. Kenneth Sealey, Maj. Willie Watson, Maxton Mayor Lillie McKoy and about 10 parents attended the meeting.
Harding told the board that Revels "is under strict orders by his doctor not to be at school in any capacity."
About 100 Lumbee Indian students protested in the parking lot on Wednesday, claiming unfair treatment and discrimination from school staff and resource officers. Students say they are upset that most of the students who were suspended were Indian.
But parents of black students are saying the opposite.
"Parents of black students picked their kids up from school Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday because they have been harassed by Indian students all this week," said a black parent who called The Robesonian this morning.
Of the 19 students who were suspended, 14 are Indian, four are black and one is white, Harding said. He said that more suspensions are expected.
The racial breakdown at the school is 84 percent American Indian, 13 percent black, and 3 percent white and "other," according to Assistant Principal James Locklear.
"We feel that everything is in control the best it can be," Harding said.
Board member John Campbell said that blacks and Indians alike are claiming that they're being discriminated against.
"I hear Native Americans are declaring racism and discrimination. I hear African-Americans saying racism, discrimination and unfair treatment," he said. "If we ignore, that is not going to make it go away. We need to address it. What we are doing now is good, but it is only a Band-Aid. It won't be long before the infection breaks out somewhere else.
"No doubt, we've got to have order," he said. "But to keep order, we've got to do something to make sure that justice is done if we want to keep peace. There is an old saying, 'Where there is no justice, there is no peace.' "
Campbell asked the administration to schedule a board meeting with Felecia Wilkins-Turner, the area director of the N.C. Human Relations Commission. Her office is on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Harding said he met with more than 100 parents who went to the school to check on their children Wednesday. A videotape of student council members pleading for calm was broadcast throughout the school. Harding also met with the faculty and staff after school on Wednesday. Assistant Superintendent Johnny Hunt and Walter Jackson, executive director of the school system's auxiliary services and legal issues, have been assigned to assist staff members at Purnell Swett.
Harding said protests on school grounds "will not be tolerated. Folks in the future will be charged with trespassing. There is a way of getting issues resolved without disrupting the school environment."
He said the protesters caused fear more than anything. Trespassing charges are pending against the students who participated in demonstrations Wednesday morning.
"These are a few bad students who are doing some bad things that are hurting the community and its image," Harding said.
Harding outlined steps the school system will take today to ensure the safety of the students, including extra security, vehicle inspections, and hand-held metal detectors.
Board member Millicent Nealy said the school should allow the students to be heard.
"If these students are not listened to, we are just covering it, because it is going to resurrect its head again," she said. "And, by John, we better listen. We don't want Robeson County to become another Columbine."
Bosco Lockear agreed, saying that the students know more about what is going on at the schools.
"If you are going to get anything solved, you've got to go to the students," he said. "I do not believe that the administration from the school level or the central office level has looked at it as racism. Therefore, I think they are missing some things. If they would open their eyes and say 'Yeah we do have a problem,' we would see some things that we haven't seen before."
Purnell Swett senior Charles Heath Brayboy said Wednesday afternoon that he helped to organize Wednesday's protest so the students' voices would be heard. Brayboy said that fights have occurred at the school since he was a freshman, but that "it has never been this bad."
Harding said that Revels was taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center after he fainted Wednesday and released hours later. He said that an echocardiogram revealed that Revels didn't have a heart attack. But Revels did suffer a slight concussion from hitting his head on the pavement, Harding said.
"The first words out of his mouth was he was concerned about his school," Harding said.
Revels' wife, Gwendolyn, said by phone on Wednesday that her husband was resting comfortably and was not available for comment.
"He is doing wonderful," she said.