Tacoma

Student with deadly nut allergy forced to drop out of school

Student with deadly nut allergy forced to drop out of school
TACOMA, Wash. -- A college student is taking on the University of Washington at Tacoma, saying she was forced to withdraw because of her life-threatening allergic reaction to peanuts.

"If I was to have an anaphylactic reaction, my throat would start to close up and I would stop being able to breath. I'll start choking," said student Kelsey Hough.

The 26-year-old developed a severe peanut allergy 5-years ago and now needs a life-saving injection within seconds of consuming the nuts.

"And then you stick it in your thigh. And then you have to hold it there for 10 seconds," she said.

That emergency action wasn't needed during her first year at UW Tacoma. She said "peanut-free" signs outside her classroom provided by the school helped to protect her.

But last week the signs were taken down, and she is no longer getting help from the disabilities guidance office.

"I felt like I'd just been kicked out of school. I knew that I wouldn't be safe," she said.

The university chancellor said the school isn't trying to get rid of Hough

"Putting up signs on classrooms where she's going to be, saying 'peanut-free' is unenforceable," chancellor Debra Friedman said.

Friedman said the campus has an open food policy where students can eat indoors, in the library or in the classroom.

There's always a chance that peanuts could be present, and even a whiff of the nuts could kill Hough.

"I cannot ensure her safety. Her allergy is too severe and it's life threatening," Friedman said.

Instead of creating "peanut-free zones," the university put up Hough's letter telling students how serious her allergy is.

"We are anxious to make reasonable accommodations," Friedman said. "We cannot keep her safe here, and that breaks my heart. She's a good student."

Without a better safety plan, Hough felt she could no longer attend the school.

"They didn't ask me to leave, but they sure didn't make it possible for me to stay," she said.

Friedman said Hough is welcome to return any time she wants, but Hough said she's lost trust in the institution.

Prior to enrolling at UW Tacoma, Hough studied two years at Green River Community College. She had no problems there, but the school has a no-food policy in the classrooms and library.