Teacher Goes Viral for Helping Teen Told He Can't Walk At Graduation Because of His Shoes

When this student showed up at graduation in shoes the school did not deem acceptable, he thought he would miss walking in his ceremony—until a teacher stepped in.

An image of a graduation cap.
Photo: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

Think back to your high school graduation. Chances are, as much as you tried to play it cool, you were incredibly excited to walk across that stage and earn a diploma, effectively taking a major step into adulthood. We imagine Daverius Peters felt that same brand of magic as he prepared to graduate with his high school class.

But Peters almost didn't get that chance. When the recent grad arrived at his school's graduation ceremony, he reportedly received some disappointing news: He would not be allowed to walk in the May 19 ceremony because the shoes he was wearing were deemed inappropriate.

According to a report from The Washington Post, the school required male students to wear dress shoes—no athletic footwear would be allowed. But Peters had a pair of black leather sneakers he figured would meet the requirements. Unfortunately, when he arrived, a school official told him he would not be permitted to participate as a graduate.

"She said my shoes violated the dress code and I couldn't attend the ceremony unless I changed them," Peters told The Washington Post. "I was in shock. I felt humiliated. I just wanted to walk across the stage and get my diploma."

Peters didn't know what to do—the ceremony was about to start, meaning he wouldn't have time to go buy another pair of shoes. Like most teens, he was concerned about what his parents would think when they didn't see their son walk with his class. But then he spotted John Butler, a paraeducator at the school who was there to watch his daughter graduate.

Peters filled Butler in on the situation, and the teacher tried to advocate on the student's behalf. Butler approached the official who told Peters he would not be allowed to walk with his class in hopes that seeing Peters with a faculty member would sway her to change her stance—but she insisted the teen would not be allowed to cross the stage in his sneakers.

With little time to come up with a plan, Butler immediately bent down, took off his shoes, and gave them to the student to wear. "It was a no-brainer," Butler said. "This was the most important moment in his life up to that point, and I wasn't going to let him miss it for anything."

Despite a size discrepancy (Butler wore a size 11 shoe; Peters wore an 9), the student quickly slipped on the brown loafers the teacher offered up—and the teacher sat through the ceremony in just his socks. And even though Peters was, by his own admission, "sliding" across the stage in the too-large pair of borrowed shoes, the teen was able to accept his diploma in front of his family (who, for the record, were confused about the grad's footwear). The fact that this teacher gave Peters that gift is incredible. We should all be so lucky to entrust our kids to an educator like this one.

Of course, the family of this new grad wasn't too happy that the school handled the situation the way they did. Peters's mother, Jima Smith, explained that her son has chronic asthma and spent most of the school year taking classes remotely. "He worked so hard, and for someone to just rip that away from him, that was maddening to me," she told The Washington Post. To that effect, Butler is reportedly planning to speak with the school about new guidelines for school ceremonies.

"If it wasn't for Mr. Butler's kind and thoughtful act, my child would have been sitting outside, and I wouldn't have known," Smith said. "I pray he will continue to work in the public school system because we need more teachers like him. Our young Black men need good role models and mentors like Mr. Butler. He gave the shoes off his own feet to my child. That says a lot about what type of man he is."

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