CARROLLTON, Ohio — Let Fish Walk. The phrase is taking over the small town of Carrollton, Ohio, from car windows to signs at local businesses.
It’s a grassroots effort for 17-year-old Carrollton High School senior Austin Fisher, who has made it clear that his role as ‘student’ comes second to his role as ‘son.’
“He’s been my hero, my rock,” says Fisher’s mother, Teresa, as tears stream down her face.
Teresa has been battling breast cancer for six years. Last year doctors told her it was stage four–terminal. Through months of chemo and radiation, she leaned on Austin.
But being his mom’s lifeline meant sacrificing school.
“I missed a lot of school for that. Running her to cancer treatments, staying home when she was in bed–it’s just me and her at the house,” Austin explains.
The varsity baseball player, who worked two jobs when his mom was too sick to work at all, racked up 16 unexcused absences. That is two more than the Carrollton school policy will allow for a student to attend prom or walk at graduation.
The news was devastating.
“Those are the moments you cherish,” Teresa says. “I said, Austin, hold your head up, don’t be negative about it. I said, they’ll look at this situation, they’ll come around.”
But Austin says a meeting with his principal proved otherwise.
“They can’t change it. They said guidelines are guidelines. It won’t be changed. I can’t walk,” Austin explains.
Now, from the devastation, has grown a movement.
Friends and fellow students started a ‘Let Fish Walk’ Facebook page, and are even circulating a petition to the board of education on Change.org. They already have nearly 15-hundred signatures.
“Everyone backs each other up here in Carrollton. When stuff happens we all know how to handle and help each other out and do what we gotta do to make things right,” says fellow senior Damon Anderson.
“He has been a rock for his mom and I truly believe that if he hadn’t been there for her, my friend wouldn’t be here today,” says longtime family friend Connie Rose Trushel.
Teresa’s cancer is now in remission, but she knows it will come back.
So she now fights a new battle.
“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,” Austin says. “I wouldn’t change it, everything I did. Family first.”
Fox 8 tried to contact Carrollton’s superintendent and principal, but both were unavailable for comment.
School board member Michael Pozderac tells Fox 8 the attendance issue is school policy. He says the school board has not yet discussed the issue, but likely will at the upcoming board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
This article was provided by reporter Lindsay Buckingham with affiliate station WJW in Cleveland, Ohio.