There are plenty of reasons to drop out of college. The workload can be overbearing, the stress and anxiety can be overwhelming, and the partying can be overly distracting. Some people simply aren't ready for college after high school, and some never will be. Of all the reasons not to go, however, allergies are not usually at the top of the list.
Kelsey Hough's peanut allergy is so severe that it forced her to drop out of school and set her dreams aside. During her first year at the University of Washington, Tacoma, professors posted bold signs on classroom doors that warned students of her deathly allergy, but they have since been removed.
"I felt like I'd just been kicked out of school," Hough told ABC. The school removed the signs that read "peanut/nut-free classroom" and replaced them with a personal note from Hough herself. "I knew I wouldn't be safe," she said.
"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," she said, describing the severity of her condition.
The school believed the original signs were unenforceable. "Her allergy is too severe and it's life-threatening," said chancellor Debra Friedman. "We cannot keep her safe here, and that breaks my heart. She's a good student."
Hough believes that the school could have been more accommodating, but acknowledges that it was ultimately her decision to withdraw. "They didn't ask me to leave," said Hough, "but they sure didn't make it possible for me stay."
Hough isn't the first student to feel disadvantaged by her allergy. In December 2012, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts that required the school to make reasonable accommodations for a student with celiac disease, a severe gluten allergy.
Mike Wark, a spokesman for the University, said that the school is looking for ways to make things work for Hough. He hopes that she can one day resume her studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma in a safer environment.
"We're very concerned about this student and her safety," he said. "The issue here is that the university can't guarantee her safety in the classroom or anywhere on campus, and putting up a sign that claims an area is peanut-free is misleading. It doesn't mean we can request that other students not bring in certain foods. It's more in the language of the sign."
There are plenty of reasons to drop out of college, but it's a shame that some have no other choice.