On 19 May, Daverius Peters, 19, a student at Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana, arrived for his graduation ceremony in a white dress shirt and tie, dark dress pants and a pair of black leather sneakers with white soles.
However, despite also having the required purple cap and gown, Peters was told that he was unable to enter the convention centre where the ceremony was being held due to his footwear choice, with a school representative telling him at the door that his shoes “violated dress code”.
“She said my shoes violated the dress code and I couldn’t attend the ceremony unless I changed them,” Peters toldThe Washington Post, which noted that the school's dress code required students to wear “dark dress shoes” and stated that no “athletic shoes” were to be allowed.
Because the graduation was about to start, it also meant that Peters did not have the option to leave and go purchase new shoes.
According to Peters, the realisation that he would not be allowed into graduation left him “humiliated,” with the teenager telling The Post: “I was in shock. I felt humiliated. I just wanted to walk across the stage and get my diploma.”
However, Peters was able to graduate after all, after John Butler, a paraeducator at the school and Peters’ mentor, gave him his own shoes.
Recalling how Peters had approached him and explained the situation after spotting him outside the convention centre, Butler, who was attending the graduation as a parent, told the outlet: “Of course, that sounded crazy to me. There was nothing eccentric about his shoes.”
Once he’d confirmed with school staff that Peters wasn’t going to be allowed in in his current attire, Butler, who has worked at the school for two years, gave the student his own shoes, a pair of tan loafers, despite the fact that they were three sizes too big.
“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.”
After shuffling across the stage to receive his diploma, Peters returned the shoes to Butler after graduation, at which point he also thanked the educator for stepping in to help.
And while Butler said he was “just doing my part” with the gesture, he also told the outlet that he plans to speak with school administrators about the dress code.
“Something that small shouldn’t rob a kid from experiencing this major moment,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be thoroughly discussed.”
On social media, the story of Butler’s help has gone viral, with many applauding the teacher for the heartwarming gesture.
“Hooray for #JohnButler for stepping in (pun intended) and supporting #DaveriusPeters. Congratulations to both men, for doing the right thing and for high school graduation, respectively. Educators should be liberators, not gatekeepers,” one person tweeted.
On Facebook, where Butler recounted the story and where it has since been shared more than 21,000 times, another person wrote: “This young man will remember you and this day for the rest of his life. We need more people like you in this world. Thank you sir.”