“It was a no-brainer,” John Butler, a paraeducator at Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana, told the Washington Post of loaning his shoes to Daverius Peters minutes before the school’s ceremony

By Morgan Smith
June 01, 2021 04:55 PM
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Tacher Gives Student His Shoes to Wear at Graduation
Credit: Courtesy John Butler

A high school senior in Louisiana was able to walk across the graduation stage to receive his diploma thanks to the generosity of a quick-thinking teacher. 

Daverius Peters was almost barred from his high school's graduation ceremony on May 19 for wearing sneakers instead of the school's mandated dress shoes, the Washington Post reported.  

A representative from Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana blocked Peters from entering the ceremony's venue because his black leather sneakers "violated the dress code," Peters, 18, told the Post

The school's graduation dress code stipulates that male students must wear dark dress shoes to the ceremony and "no athletic shoes" were allowed, according to the Post

"I was in shock," Peters told the Post of not being allowed inside. "I felt humiliated. I just wanted to walk across the stage and get my diploma."

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Outside the convention center, a nervous Peters reportedly spotted a familiar, friendly face: John Butler, a paraeducator at the school and a popular staff member among the students. His daughter, Jaelyn, was also graduating from Hahnville. 

Peters quickly approached Butler and asked for help.

"Of course, that sounded crazy to me," Butler told the Post. "There was nothing eccentric about his shoes."

When the school representative didn't budge, Butler slipped off his tan loafers and handed them to Peters so he could join his classmates inside. 

"It was a no-brainer," he 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."

It wasn't a perfect fit — Butler is a size 11, while Peters is a size 9 — so the teacher sat in the audience in his socks, while Peters wobbled in the oversized loafers. 

Those in attendance —  especially Peters's family —  were bewildered when the high school senior stepped across the stage in his new, ill-fitting shoes.

"Wait a minute, whose shoes does he have on?" Jima Smith, Peters's mother, whispered to his family, according to the Post. "We were all confused."

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Smith's other son pointed out Butler, watching the ceremony proudly in his socks, "not knowing it was the man who gave his shoes to his baby brother so that he could walk across the stage," Smith, 48, added. 

Butler's selfless act, however, was hardly surprising to Peters. "Mr. Butler is that type of person," he 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."

Butler told the Post he's planning to meet with school administrators to review the rules for future graduation ceremonies, as he believes that "something that small shouldn't rob a kid from experiencing this major moment."

Stevie Crovetto, the director of public information for Hahnville High School, reportedly said administrators are reviewing the incident. 

"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," she told the Post. "We are not the least bit surprised that Mr. Butler did this kind gesture for this senior."

Peters's parents were "very upset" when they heard what happened, Smith reportedly said. This past school year was tough for Peters, who battles chronic asthma and took most of his classes remotely. 

"He worked so hard, and for someone to just rip that away from him, that was maddening to me," Smith told the Post. She added that she plans to speak to the school board about the incident so other students won't end up in the same uncomfortable situation as her son. 

"I pray he will continue to work in the public school system because we need more teachers like him," Smith told the Post of Butler. Our young Black men need good role models and mentors like Mr. Butler."

Butler, however, told the Post he didn't give the deed a second thought. "I was just doing my part," he said.