Teen who cared for sick mom will walk at graduation

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CARROLLTON, Ohio – The Carrollton Exempted Village School District has reversed a recent decision that prohibited a student from participating in his commencement exercises this year.

Austin Fisher, 17, is a senior at Carrollton High School with 16 unexcused absences, two more than school policy permits.

He has been caring for his mom who has cancer.

“I wanted to take a lot of pressure off of her, because that’s the most important thing when you have a cancer – a stress-free lifestyle, I mean, that’s how you heal the best, so that’s what I was trying to do,” said Austin.

During a recent interview with FOX 8 News, Austin and his mom, Teresa Fisher, asked the district to rethink the decision, citing his good grades and continued involvement in school activities.

“Since Austin’s been 12 he’s been dealing with this and you carry around some guilt of being this ill mother, it’s hard to explain,” said Teresa.

On Monday, school administrators met with Austin and his mom before releasing this statement: “At the meeting, Teresa Fisher provided additional information to the school administrators concerning Austin’s absences, which had not been previously provided to the district.  Based on this new information and after careful consideration by school officials and the board of education, it was decided that Austin would be permitted to participate in commencement.  In the interest of all of Carrollton’s students, the district and Teresa Fisher ask that the community respect their decision and that everyone move forward.  Carrollton Schools is a great place to work and learn and we do not want to be sidetracked from our mission of educating children.”

On Tuesday, no one from the school district would comment further on the meeting, but the issue has garnered attention locally and nationally.

A Facebook support page was established and a petition to encourage the district to change their mind had more than 90,000 signatures on Change.org.

“I mean, it was for his mother, he did it! He missed school because of his mother! He pulled it together because of his mother.  I think it’s great,” said Michelle Howe, a Carrollton resident.

A member of the school board told FOX 8 that they’re now working on a policy change.

“Being a person who’s had someone suffer from cancer, I know what it takes to take care of them, so if that’s what he was doing, then he shouldn’t be – you know – punished for it,” said Carrollton resident Trenna Parsons.

Austin’s mom, Teresa, wouldn’t comment on the outcome of Monday’s meeting but she is thanking the community for the well-wishes and overwhelming support.

The Carrollton High School graduation is Friday, May 25, 2012.
This article was provided by reporter Mark Zinni with affiliate station WJW in Cleveland, Ohio.