How I was Kicked Out of College Because of my Allergy

The office of Disability Support Services (DSS) at the University of Washington extension campus in Tacoma considered my anaphylactic, airborne reaction to peanuts to be so serious that it was documented disability. I didn’t have to eat or even touch peanuts for my throat to start closing up; my life would be in danger if a classmate so much as ate a peanut-y treat during lecture. This meant going to school was risky—very risky. And I knew that better than anyone. But I thought I had support.

Reasonable Accommodations

Despite the risks, I didn’t ask my university to ban peanuts from the campus or require all of the security staff to be trained on how to use an Epi-Pen (although, both would have made me much safer). Instead, I worked with DSS to figure out what my reasonable accommodations were: visible “peanut-free” signs on my classroom doors to remind students, teachers would be contacted by DSS so they’d know to enforce the policy, and an email was sent out at the beginning of each quarter alerting everyone who’d be in my classrooms that quarter not to eat peanuts in those rooms.

It wasn’t perfect, and I knew my “peanut-free” signs wouldn’t truly prevent a rule-breaker from eating their Reese’s snack in my classroom. Because the university is an urban campus (right in the heart of the fun, artsy section of Tacoma), it doesn’t have a cafeteria, so people eat pretty much everywhere. This is dangerous for me. There also aren’t rules about eating in classrooms. Extra dangerous. While my accommodations may not have been perfect, having support from my university made the difference between whether or not I could attend the school.

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