No Eating? No School

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Last September, 20-year-old Keri Krissik, a college student battling anorexia, was kicked out of school because of her condition. Officials at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., maintain she was physically and emotionally unfit to live on campus, and that her medical problems were too severe to monitor.

Krissik believes the school discriminated against her for having an eating disorder. After losing a federal injunction on January 5th (the judge ruled that the college does not have to readmit her), Krissik filed a lawsuit against the college. Krissik and her attorney, Abbe Ross, spoke with CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Jane Clayson.

Last spring, Krissik was very sick and actually went into cardiac arrest because of her anorexia. After the incident, doctors implanted a defibrillator in her heart.

Krissik, who has been battling anorexia since she was eight years old, said the heart attack made her realize that anorexia is more serious than she thought it was.

"What happened in April was a wake-up call for me and sort of changed my direction," said Krissik. "It helped me realize that my doctors are working with me, not against me."

She says that by September, she was ready to return to college and regarded going back as a new start. According to news reports, Krissik is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 97 pounds.

Krissik says that when she found out that her college was dismissing her, she was "devastated."

"All of what I had worked for over the summer…collapsed around me. So it was very hard," she said.

The college suggests that her health was a priority and they were doing this in her best interest.

Krissik responds that her medical condition is much improved since April.

"I feel that it's important for me to get back to, you know, comfortable surroundings where I was well established and it's important for my recovery," said Krissik.

"If the school is really concerned with Keri's health, they would allow her back to school because her treating physicians have said a major protocol in treating anorexia is living as normal a life as possible," said Ross. "And for Keri, rebuilding her self-esteem is part of it."

Ross denies that Krissik's health compromises and put an unreasonable expectation on the college's resources, as the college says it does.

"Keri does not need any accommodations from the school. Let alone unreasonable accommodations," said Krissik.

The college is also worried that Krissik's condition places an emotional burden on her classmates and roommates. (The Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association showed that women who live with someone with an eating disorder are six times more likely to develop an eating disorder themselves.)

In response, Krissik says that "Everybody I've talked to at school has been supportive. Definitely."

Her lawyer adds that people with disabilities should not be kep off college campuses because other people may feel sad for them or uncomfortable.

Elise Busny, an attorney for Stonehill College, says that the decision to turn Krissik away is based on her "dangerous behaviors that culminated in the cardiac arrest. And those behaviors might continue despite their best efforts to try to help Keri's further recovery."

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by an abnormal fear of becoming obese, a distorted self-image, a persistent unwillingness to eat and severe weight loss. It usually strikes young women and is often accompanied by excessive exercise,
self-induced vomiting and malnutrition.

Krissik points out that she enrolled at Albertus Magnus College, a school near her home, for the fall semester of 2000. She never missed a day and earned a 3.3 grade point average.

But Busny says Krissik's academic record isn't the issue.

"Many people who live with anorexia are by nature, perfectionists," Busny explained. "Keri would work hard and join as many clubs as possible…Aside from her academic ability and desire to be involved in the community, her physical and mental health right now is such that it would be compromised by being on our campus."

She adds that Stonehill leaves open the possibility that Krissik could return to Stonehill at some point.

"The door is open to Keri, to the extent she continues in her recovery and does well, and further medical records show that she is able to come back to school without compromising her health and well-being," said Busny. "The school would be thrilled to take her back."

Krissik says this situation will make her a stronger person. "I think it'll make other obstacles in life, you know, kind of fade in comparison to this."

Yet she still wants to return to Stonehill, saying, "I need to remain, you know, hopeful that I will."

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