Potential law could improve security for HBCUs

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:14 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - “I don’t wish this on anyone. This is a life change that I could have never, ever, ever, planned for,” said Lorena Tucker, Jatonne Sterling’s mother.

Lorena Tucker is angry. She’s angry her oldest son with such a bright future ahead of him was taken from her much too soon.

The Clark Atlanta University sophomore and baseball player, Jatonne Sterling, was shot and killed near the school’s catholic center in late February.

He was just 20 years old.

“I’m focusing on the fact that I can’t change what has happened, but I would like for the students who attend there to feel more safe,” Tucker said.

The gun violence, which school officials say in this case was not on school property, isn’t new.

In October, a drive by shooting by AUC’s library injured four people. And in 2019, four students from both Clark Atlanta and Spelman were injured after someone fired into a crowd at a block party.

The Atlanta University Center Consortium has one piece of the solution.

For the past two years, executive director Michael Hodges has pushed for House Bill 142 to make its way to the governor’s desk. Now, that dream is a reality.

“All the schools are private. They are all individually run. They have their own boards. Now, they can enter into contractual agreements that there should be no boundaries between the campuses and the library in terms of its security patrol and immunity will not be an issue,” he said.

Right now, Hodges says if something happens on one of the four campuses, other campus police forces would have to be invited to show up.

If this bill turns to law, he says they’d be able to share information and security resources as one unified entity in real time.

“They can share potential issues that they may see in the community on one side of the campus that’s not seen on the other, but it could filtrate over,” said Hodges.

But is it enough? Atlanta News First asked students.

“Not really because I think it’s a bigger problem than just having a bunch of police here,” said Zero Henderson, a freshman at Morehouse College.

“At least hypothetically you have more help and more safety,” said Nailah Bombata, a sophomore at Clark Atlanta University.

Cark Atlanta University says it does plan to increase safety measures on its own campus. They’ll announce those updates in the coming days.