‘This will save lives’: Cobb mom pushing for safer college campuses

College Safety Coalition pushes bill requiring schools to report injuries
On Jan. 14, 2015, Clark Jacobs underwent brain surgery at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. This photo was taken hours after the surgery.

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

On Jan. 14, 2015, Clark Jacobs underwent brain surgery at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital. This photo was taken hours after the surgery.

Mariellen Jacobs knows she is one of the fortunate mothers.

When her son was a 20-year-old Georgia Tech student, he fell seven feet from his lofted bed and fractured his skull. Clark Jacobs required two emergency surgeries and months of recovery at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center. Years later, he’s still overcoming the effects of his traumatic brain injury.

But Clark is alive. Other parents are left to grieve after their children have died on their college campuses, often from accidents that could have been prevented. Her son’s journey led Jacobs to push Georgia colleges and universities to make bed rails available to students using raised beds.

Now, she has joined forces with other parents to help make campuses even safer. The College Safety Coalition’s aim is for federal legislation requiring colleges and universities to report data from campus incidents leading to serious injury or death, much like schools already must do with crime data. This way, families could review the safety reports while choosing a school to attend, she said.

“All we are asking for is data,” Jacobs told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We are asking for reporting that is already in place to be expanded so people can make informed decisions.”

Jacobs co-founded the coalition with Connecticut mother Nanette Hausman, who lost a son four years ago in a skateboarding accident at the University of Colorado. Two Connecticut members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Joe Courtney and Jim Himes, are sponsoring a bill to amend the Clery Act of 1990, which requires colleges to report crimes.

A bill called The College Operational Reporting of Emergencies Involving Teens and Young Adults (COREY) Safety Act would require colleges to disclose in their annual safety reports the number of accidents and other incidents that result in serious harm or death. Hausman’s late son was named Corey.

With a new class of students preparing to start college in the upcoming weeks, the safety bill has never been more important, according to the coalition and its supporters.

“Students go off to college and university with the goal of gaining experiences, skills and accreditation for opportunities later in life,” Courtney said. “It’s one of the greatest things a parent gets to witness — to see our kids work hard and achieve these opportunities — and while not every tragedy can be prevented, we need to know that schools are taking meaningful steps to keep students safe on campus.”

For Clark Jacobs, an inexpensive bed rail would have prevented the injury that nearly cost him his life. But bed safety admittedly wasn’t one of his mother’s top worries when he moved into his fraternity house.

“All it takes is one roll and you’re out of that bed, and it can be devastating,” Jacobs told the AJC in 2019. “My kid never fell out of the bed until he did.”

Clark Jacobs (second from left) with his family, including sister Kelsey, and parents Ron and Mariellen, at the family's Cobb County home in July 2020.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

The bill would apply to the campus and other entities run by the college, and specific guidelines may differ from state to state, according to the coalition.

Jacobs said the goal isn’t to punish the schools where students have been seriously injured or killed. Publishing the data can also help those schools focus on potential campus problems, such as the steep path Corey Hausman attempted to ride down on his skateboard. Campus officials likely knew of the dangers, but the Hausmans did not.

Colleges may be more likely to address potential safety problems if injury data is being published, Jacobs said.

“It’s going to point back to the gaps on campuses that aren’t safe,” Jacobs said. “This is going to help parents and students look at the schools they are considering and help make their decisions.”

Jacobs encourages other parents to reach out to their government representatives to encourage support for the bill.

“This will save lives,” she said.