A 17-year-old varsity baseball player in Ohio is being banned from walking at his own graduation for racking up two too many unexcused absences. While those circumstances might be considered the fault of the athlete in most cases, Carrollton (Ohio) High senior Austin Fisher's case is a rather extraordinary one: His absences were all brought on by time he spent caring for his mother, who has spent the past six years battling breast cancer.
As reported by Cleveland Fox affiliate WJW, Fisher has missed 16 days during his senior year, none of which have technically been excused. The Carrollton school district caps the number of absences allowable for a student to walk with his or her graduation class at 14, a number which means that Fisher will not be able to walk across the stage with the rest of his classmates.
For Fisher and other seniors at the school, that seems extremely unfair, particularly because all of his absences were brought on by his own heroic efforts to care for his mother, as he is the only other person who lives in their household. When Teresa Fisher became too sick to work, Austin Fisher took on two different jobs to help pay the bills. On a number of other days, Austin Fisher missed school so he could run his mother to cancer treatments and then care for her when she was bedridden after returning home.
In some districts, those types of in-home efforts might be worth credit for a home health care internship. In Carrollton, they just counted as more absences, a policy which Austin Fisher said the district is unable to change without forcing through a complete policy shift.
"They can't change it. They said guidelines are guidelines," Austin Fisher told WJW. "It won't be changed. I can't walk.
"You never know how much time you have left and that was one of her big [goals] — to see me walk and get my diploma and go off to college. I wouldn't change it, everything I did. Family first."
He can't walk for now, but some of Fisher's fellow classmates aren't giving up on the opportunity to have him celebrate with them. Other Carrollton seniors have started an online petition at change.org to help convince the Carrollton school district to change its policy on unexcused absences. The online petition was originally set up in search of 5,000 signatures, and has already received nearly 4,600.
There is also a "Let Fish Walk" Facebook page which has attracted more than 4,600 members.
"Everyone backs each other up here in Carrollton," Carrollton senior Damon Anderson told WJW. "When stuff happens we all know how to handle and help each other out and do what we gotta do to make things right."
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