Strict discipline at West Charlotte High School
Miller recalls that discipline issues arose at West Charlotte after the school integrated, and describes how he dealt with unruly students. He used strict control to create an atmosphere of discipline and takes some credit for the tone he set at West Charlotte.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Leroy Miller, June 8, 1998. Interview K-0174. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
PG: Did you meet with all of them, with every student?
LM: Yeah. I scheduled them. They wanted to know how are we going to have an assembly with fourteen hundred student. So I told them. I recall the first year of integration at West Charlotte. Prior to integration we’d have a pep rally in the afternoon the last period of the day. When we were all black, I’d say to the students, “Let’s move quickly and quietly to the gym,” and then follow them down there because I was an assistant principal. You never get to old to learn. That first pep rally we had down at the gym was a learning experience for me.
PG: When you had the integrated school?
LM: Yes. That was the first year of integration. I told them to move quickly and quietly to the gym, when I got down there all the white students were on one side of the gym and all of the black students were on the other side. The white cheerleaders were over with the white students, and the black cheerleaders were over with the black students. I suffered through that thirty to forty-five minutes, but that didn’t happen ever any more. From that time on I met with the teachers and I’d say, “Now, we’re going to have a pep rally, but I’ve assigned places for each one of the classes.” And I demanded that the teachers would go down there and take those seats. In that way you had true integration. I followed that same procedure up until I retired. Of course, out at East Mecklenburg I got to the point where I didn’t have to worry about that because the kids knew what my feelings were, and I had a good student congress. At Carmel I’d call the ninth graders to go to the gym first. They sat on the top bleachers, then the eighth graders, and then the seventh graders. Tom Harris and Mr. Porter and Jane Scott, and I forget the other fellow’s name on the school board, they were out there for orientation. I had my minister out there to pray, give the invocation. When we met down there in the gym, one old boy lived over in Myers Park. He was a big old white boy, a ninth grader. He was going to show off. He was in Mel Brown’s class. He was in ninth grade. We hadn’t even gotten started. I said, “Mr. Brown, I believe that’s coming from your class.” He said, “It is, Mr. Miller.” I said, “Identify him for me.” I left the speaker’s stand and started down. He said, “He’s up there.” Mel asked him to come down. He wouldn’t come down.
PG: What had he been doing? Was he yelling?
LM: He was going to heckle. I told Mel, “You need to heed him then.” Mel got up there and kind of gave him a shove. When he gave him a shove he was coming down the bleachers and he fell right in my arms. When he fell in my arms I just pushed him on out the door. I kind of talked to him out there, and sent him to the office. I went back to the stage to start over. About that time here come a black boy. I guess they were friends. We did the same thing to him. I said, “Listen, we’re going to have this assembly, period.” I said, “If you want the same fate those two fellows got, you can get it because I’m not backing up, period.” About that time you could hear a pin drop on cotton. We had a nice orientation program for the students. Miss Porter was president of PTSA. I recall that after the program was over and I was dismissing the kids, I walked up behind her and she was saying to Mr. Harris, a member of the school board, “Thank God. You all sent us a man out here this year.” I didn’t have any problems with the kids. I’ve got a gold whistle back there that the PTSA gave me. I had a whistle. When I blew my whistle the kids would get quiet. Kids learn to run before they learn to walk. That’s the same with a bunch of junior high school kids. When the day was over they’d take off just running to the busses in the afternoon. Just before the bell would ring for dismissal in the afternoon, I said, “Listen. Nobody passes me going to the bus lot. Nobody. If you pass me I’m going to sock it to you.” So I’d just take my time and walk out there, and they’d walk out behind me. The parents thought it was the funniest thing. I said, “No, I don’t allow them to run.” I think it was that October. Evelyn Crutchfield came out there. We were supposed to be carrying on a self study. In fact, Harold was supposed to start it the previous year. We had until that April to conduct that self study and get the school accredited. I worked my fanny off. I had some nice, young teachers. We all worked. The accreditation team came in there. It just so happened that Jay Robinson was on that team. He was superintendent in Concord, and there was another superintendent from High Point. Then you had Dr. Durant. They came out there. I think the funniest thing about it, the hostesses for the people were students that were being punished. There are so many tools that you can use in working with kids. That was during the time when kids were wearing jeans with patches in the wrong places. There was a little girl, and I said, “You can come to school tomorrow, but you’d better have a dress on, period.” I’d have conferences with their parents, and I’d tell their parents, “Yes, she can come back tomorrow, but she must have a dress on.” They had dresses on and they reported to the office this morning. When they reported to the office I assigned them to members of the committee. We were having a general meeting and the superintendent of schools from High Point, North Carolina, said to me, “Mr. Miller, in talking to my young lady here, my escort, she tells me that she’s being punished.” The rest of them began to ask theirs. They were amused that the kids were being punished. He said, “You mean to tell me you’d take a chance and assign someone as a punishment to be a guide? And they’re still saying nice things about you.” I said, “Expectations are your seeds of success.” I’ve never had a kid to tell a lie on me. I always believe in kids. If I sent a kid home for something, when the kid would come back, I’d say, “You say it to your parents while they are here.” And they would do that. We had a lot of things that at West Charlotte that I don’t think we go the credit for.