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I can still picture him sitting in my classroom.
Do you remember that character in Peanuts, the one called Pig Pen, with the dust cloud and crumbs flying all around him? That was Stephen Miller at 8. I was always trying to get him to clean up his desk — he always had stuff mashed up in there. He was a strange dude. I remember he would take a bottle of glue — we didn’t have glue sticks in those days — and he would pour the glue on his arm, let it dry, peel it off and then eat it.
I remember being concerned about him — not academically. He was OK with that, though I could never read his handwriting. But he had such strange personal habits. He was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time.
At the end of the year, I wrote all my concerns — and I had a lot of them — in his school record. When the school principal had a conference with Stephen’s parents, the parents were horrified. So the principal took some white-out and blanked out all my comments. I wish I could remember what I wrote, but this was 25 years ago. I’ve taught a lot of third-graders since then. Of course, Stephen wasn’t political then — it wasn’t until later that he started to make waves.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.