High school graduation marks a huge turning point in a young person’s life. From that moment forward, you get to carve your own path. You have endless possibilities in front of you, and there’s no limit to what you can accomplish. It’s a transition from childhood to adulthood, and you’ll remember that moment forever.
Many people consider graduation as one of the most important days of their life. Daverius Peters, a senior at Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana, had been looking forward to this special day for a while. However, when he arrived at the graduation ceremony on May 19, a school representative turned him away.
The 18-year-old had on the mandatory cap and gown. He’d also followed the other guidelines, which stated that male students must wear a white dress shirt and tie, along with dark dress pants. However, the woman at the front doors of the convention center told him his shoes violated the dress code. She said unless he changed his shoes, he couldn’t attend the graduation ceremony.
The school’s graduation dress code stated that males had to wear dark dress shoes. It also emphasized not to wear athletic shoes, as they wouldn’t be allowed. That day, Peters wore black leather sneakers with white soles. They weren’t classic dress shoes, but Peters thought he could wear them since they were black.
So, when the school representative denied him entry, he went into shock. Peters also felt humiliated, imagining what his parents would think if he couldn’t attend his own graduation. He just wanted to walk across the stage and get the diploma he’d worked so hard for.
With only minutes until the ceremony was set to begin, he felt hopeless. He had no time to stop at a store to buy new shoes. As he paced anxiously outside the convention center, he spotted a glimmer of hope. He’d noticed a familiar face, that of paraeducator John Butler.
Peters almost missed his graduation until the kind staff member came to his rescue
Butler helps mentor students at the high school, and many students look up to him. Butler always did what he could to help the students. He had a daughter graduating with Peters, so he was attending the commencement ceremony as a parent that day. So, Peters ran over to him and explained his shoe predicament.
After he told the story, Butler couldn’t believe it. He’d been working at the school for two years and was well aware of the dress code. However, he didn’t see anything eccentric about Peters’ shoes.
Butler decided to talk with the woman who’d denied the young man entry. Perhaps if she saw him with Peters, she’d change her mind. However, she stuck to her decision, not allowing Peters in due to his shoes. With only minutes to spare, he didn’t have time to argue with her.
So, without a second thought, Butler took off his own shoes and gave them to Peters. He saw no other options at that point, and for him, “it was a no-brainer.” He wasn’t going to let the soon-to-be high school graduate miss this pivotal moment in his life.
It seemed like everything would run smoothly now, except for one small hiccup. Peters wore a size 9, and Butler wore a size 11. Peters didn’t let the size difference phase him, though. He slid Butler’s tan loafers onto his feet and excitedly ran through the doors right before they closed.
Butler then took his seat with only socks on his feet, ignoring the confused stares from others. He just felt happy that Peters would get to receive his diploma. For him, giving up his shoes temporarily was a small price to pay.
Peters slid across the stage, proudly receiving his high school diploma
Peters heard his name, but he couldn’t walk in the oversized shoes. So, he improvised and slid across the stage to receive his diploma. Peters’ family along with the rest of the audience noticed his strange choice of footwear.
Jima Smith, Peters’ mother, asked the rest of the family what shoes her son had on. They had no idea where the shoes came from, and why he wasn’t wearing the black sneakers. Then, they looked over and noticed Butler had no shoes on. However, they didn’t put two and two together at that moment.
Smith’s other son pointed out Butler’s shoeless feet, not realizing that he’d given his shoes to his younger brother. Right after the ceremony, Daverius found the kind mentor who’d loaned him the shoes so he could graduate. He returned the loafers and expressed his gratitude for the selfless gesture.
Mr. Butler’s kindness didn’t surprise him, however. He said that he’s just “that type of person.” When a student’s having a bad day, Butler calls them out of class to personally talk with them. He doesn’t want anyone to feel like they have to go through things alone.
So, because of Butler, everything worked out in Peters’ favor in the end. However, Butler says the incident highlighted the school’s need to alter the dress code. He believes something that minor shouldn’t prohibit a student from attending their own graduation. He plans to meet with the school board to discuss adjusting guidelines for future ceremonies.
Stevie Crovetto, the director of public information for Hahnville High School, spoke about the incident. She says the school administrators will review current policies and make improvements where needed. She added that Mr. Butler’s kindness didn’t surprise anyone at the school, as he’s always willing to help.
After Peters’ parents learned what happened, they felt outraged. Due to the pandemic, Peters had to learn virtually for much of the year. He’d had a tough senior year and had worked so hard for his diploma. His parents couldn’t believe something as minor as his shoes could’ve kept him from graduating.
Peters’ mom said her son truly believed his footwear followed the dress code. She added that it wasn’t just about him, though. Maybe other parents couldn’t afford to buy new dress shoes; should their children be denied entry, too?
Smith plans to meet with the school board to discuss the matter. She hopes that, in the future, the incident won’t happen to other students.
In an interview with The Washington Post, she said: “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.”
Mr. Butler humbly said he just did what he felt was right, and didn’t think much of it. However, Peters’ family was blown away by the last-minute shoe exchange.
“He gave the shoes off his own feet to my child,” Smith said. “That says a lot about what type of man he is.”