A Louisiana high school teacher showed why educators and caregivers are real-life superheroes.
Daverius Peters, age 19, almost missed graduating from Hahnville High School because his shoes didn’t align with the ceremony’s dress code. Peters wore black leather shoes with white bottoms, but the dress code called for dark dress shoes. A worker at the door prevented Peters from entering the building; there wasn’t enough time before the ceremony to figure out a substitute or go to a store.
“I was in shock. I felt humiliated,” Peters told the Washington Post. “I just wanted to walk across the stage and get my diploma.”
This is when Peters’ mentor, paraeducator John Butler, stepped in to save the day. Butler took off the pair of brown dress loafers he wore to the event and gave them to Peters to wear—a move the teacher barely had to think about.
Before taking off his shoes, Butler approached the person who had denied Daverius entry “hoping that maybe if she saw me with him, she would let it go.” Butler continued, telling the Post, “But she insisted on not letting this young man in, and I didn’t have time to go back and forth with her. … It was a no-brainer. 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.”
On Facebook, Butler said the situation had him “in total disbelief”:
Despite being two sizes too big, Peters was able to cross the stage in the loafers to receive his diploma. The two then posed for a picture, with Butler wearing only his socks.
“I wasn’t surprised because Mr. Butler is that type of person,” Peters told the Post. “At school, if you’re having a bad day, he’ll be the one to take you out of class, walk around the school with you and talk to you.”
Although he was happy to help, Butler recognized that the school’s rule was over-the-top. “Of course, that sounded crazy to me. There was nothing eccentric about his shoes,” he said, later adding that he’s looking to meet with administrators to look over these guidelines for the future. “Something that small shouldn’t rob a kid from experiencing this major moment. It’s something that needs to be thoroughly discussed.”
The school’s director of public information told the newspaper, “As with any policy that we have in place, any time an opportunity is presented to us to review and to make improvements, we absolutely will follow up on that. We are not the least bit surprised that Mr. Butler did this kind gesture for this senior.”
Peters’ mother Jima Smith said, “He gave the shoes off his own feet to my child. That says a lot about what type of man he is.” Of her son she added, “He worked so hard, and for someone to just rip that away from him, that was maddening to me. … 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. 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.”