DeKalb teacher charged with murder of 2 kids

A DeKalb County teacher was taken in handcuffs from his school Friday, charged with killing a young brother and sister in a 2016 Clayton County home invasion.

Michael De’Sean White, 26, is charged with murder, said Clayton County Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Ashanti Marbury said Tuesday.

He remains in the Clayton County Jail without bail. It is unknown what connection he had to a Chattanooga gang authorities suspect is responsible for the deadly shooting.

Police said 11-year-old Tatiyana Coates and her brother, 15-year-old Daveon Coates, were sleeping in a Clayton County rental home when they were shot to death Oct. 22, 2016, in a gang-retaliation killing that missed its target. Another 15-year-old had lived in the home briefly after Daveon and Tatiyana's mother took that teen's family in. He was taken into protective custody in Tennessee immediately after the home invasion.

Four younger children were in the home at the time of the shooting. None was hurt.

Police think gang members traveled to Clayton County looking for the other 15-year-old, who was not there when the killings took place. The alleged murder weapon was found in Tennessee, the next day, after a shootout involving gang members suspected of killing the siblings.

The Jonesboro brother and sister were among victims of a deadly rash of gun violence against young people in Clayton County: From October to December of 2016, seven people between ages 11 and 18 were killed.  The alleged killers also were young people.

The series of deaths was attributed then to an increase in gang activity. Officials said gang membership was up and social media expanded the reach of many gangs outside of local neighborhoods. But the number of gang-related court cases is about one-tenth of what it was 10 years ago.

White was removed from DeKalb’s Toney Elementary School until an investigation is complete, district officials said. He has taught fifth grade at the school since August and began with the district as a paraprofessional in March 2017.

“The district is fully cooperating with law enforcement agencies in DeKalb and Clayton counties in a combined investigation,” district officials said in a statement. “Per standard procedure, the employee was removed from his/her position until official results of an investigation are released. DeKalb County School District’s first priority is the safety of our students and staff.”

DeKalb officials said White submitted to two separate background checks — one before he was hired as a paraprofessional and the other before he was given a full-time teaching position over the summer.

“On both occasions, nothing indicated this employee may be involved in criminal behavior,” district officials said.

But the district has come under fire for its hiring practices in the past year, with district officials admitting they needed to improve on practices including internet searches and both employment and reference verification. Among other issues, a substitute teacher dismissed in the fall had been rehired after she was forced to retire the previous year after Donald Trump's presidential election. She allegedly told a classroom full of mostly Latino and immigrant students at Cross Keys High School that she would call immigration if they did not behave.