When 26-year-old Kelsey Hough started school at the University of Washington, Tacoma, she was happy to see her teachers and school administrators taking steps to ensure her safety.
The school posted signs on the doors of her classrooms, declaring them peanut-free environments – an action that might seem excessive to people whose experience with peanut allergies is limited, but Hough’s allergy is so severe as to require it.
“If I was to have an anaphylactic reaction, my throat would start to close up and I would stop being able to breathe. I’ll start choking,” Hough explained in a recent interview with ABC News affiliate KOMO.
Her allergy is ‘too severe’
But despite the school’s initial support and concern over the severity of her allergy, Hough was distressed to find that the signs had been taken down and that the school felt incapable of keeping her safe.
According to the school chancellor, Debra Friedman, “[Hough’s allergy] is too severe and it’s life-threatening … We cannot keep her safe here, and that breaks my heart. She’s a good student.”
Putting safety before education
The fear of anaphylactic shock is so real that Hough has had to withdraw from school, though she does acknowledge that she was never asked to leave by University administration.
“I knew I wouldn’t be safe,” Hough told KOMO of her decision to leave school.
Though individuals with severe allergies are eligible for services through the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hough’s struggle is one that many students with peanut allergies face as they enter universities, and even later on in the workforce.
At this time, a spokesman for the University of Washington, Tacoma, has announced that the school is eager to work with Kelsey and hopes to find a safer environment in which she can resume her studies.