Beloved teacher, coach dies of COVID-19 after coaching in person

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — The number of reported deaths from COVID-19 is falling in Georgia, but that’s no comfort to the wife of a teacher and coach who died from the coronavirus this week.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones talked with LaShane Suttles in Clayton County. Her husband, Mark Suttles, died of the virus at just 46 years old. He was a well-known special education teacher at Riverdale Middle School and coached track at Riverdale High School.

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LaShane Suttles said she is angry and searching for answers about how he got sick. Suttles was teaching middle school from home, but went to the high school to coach.

She said she doesn’t know if that’s where he contracted the virus, but strongly believes sports shouldn’t be a priority during a pandemic.

“You’re putting educators in danger,” Suttles said. “You’re putting the people that are teaching the future in danger. This virus will take your life. It will change your whole family just like this in an instant.”

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Suttles said her husband loved teaching and coaching and just loved life.

“And now he’s just gone,” Suttles said. “You just sit there and you’re just pulling out pictures and things looking at your life. Just gone.”

Suttles said the couple grew up in a small town, dated briefly and then she moved away. They reconnected 20 years later and got married at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

Now, their plans of growing old together are no longer.

“A wonderful man of 46 years just disappears, just like that,” Suttles said.

The school district would not comment on Suttles’ cause of death and wouldn’t respond when Jones asked about coaches having to teach in-person during a pandemic.

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The Clayton County school superintendent released a statement late Thursday, saying:

“Clayton County Public Schools is deeply saddened by the loss of one of our valued employees. We continue to extend our prayers and thoughts to the family during this difficult time. We’re all dealing with the challenges of this pandemic in the many ways the virus can be contracted.

“The school district wishes not to speculate as to who and how the employee may have contracted the virus given the possibility of contraction from many sources.

“Again, the family is in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time of loss. We encourage everyone to do their part to social distance, wear masks and participate in groups and gatherings responsibly. We must work together to combat this pandemic.”