Cobb School board member David Banks’ emails raise ethics questions

The logo on front of a Cobb County School District facilityCobb County School District sign (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

By Rebecca Gaunt

Cobb County School Board Vice Chairman David Banks is still sending emails to parents that refer to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” despite community backlash from a previous incident.

Last week, he also sent parents emails about a recent pandemic lockdown study, but with additional commentary demanding Dr. Anthony Fauci be fired because he and “his Democrat buddies ran one of the biggest cons in the history of the country to gain power.”

The study has been widely reported in the media as being a “Johns Hopkins study,” but while one of the three economists who wrote it, Steve H. Hanke, is affiliated with the school, the non-peer reviewed working paper has not been endorsed by the university.

“This is wildly inappropriate and he should be removed from his post,” one recipient said.

Another recipient responded to Banks, along with the rest of the Cobb school board and state Superintendent Richard Woods, in an email, writing, “I do not know what kind of unsolicited mailing list you have me on but these emails need to cease immediately! I cannot believe you and others continue to sit on a board that makes detrimental decisions without any recourse, for our children’s health and learning needs.”

Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Temple Kol Emeth, who worked with former board Chairman Randy Scamihorn on an anti-semitism resolution, tweeted that Banks’ emails are ethical violations in need of retraction.

“We will hold you accountable,” he wrote.

In 2017, Banks stirred controversy by forwarding a debunked email about Mexican immigrants. Then-Chairman David Chastain, who was selected to serve as chairman again last month in a 4-3 vote along party lines, wrote in an email to the AJC that because Banks was using his personal email account, “this matter is not within (the board’s) legal purview.”

The most recent emails are from a personal account, which appears to have been in use since at least 2005, based on a web search that turned up an old post on a message board that included Banks’ name and Marietta location.

Previous emails discouraging mask use, despite the district’s claim that masks are “highly encouraged,” and promoting hydroxychloroquine came from his campaign email account.

Emails stating that “the government is intentionally killing its citizens” and discouraging vaccination came from his official board member account.

The emails often appear to contain material cut and pasted from other sources, and not necessarily written by Banks. He has been criticized for the contents of his Grapevine newsletter, sarcastic responses to parents, and for sending unsolicited emails. Some parents have also complained that their requests to stop receiving communication from him have been ignored.

In January, Banks was chosen to serve as vice chairman for the third year in a row in a 4-3 vote along partisan lines.

Board member Dr. Jaha Howard objected saying, “Mr. Banks has also had several concerning behavioral issues that have been discussed behind the scenes and, for some reason, he has continued to be nominated as chair.”

Banks, Chastain, Chief Strategy and Accountability Officer John Floresta, and Cobb County School District spokesperson Nan Kiel were asked for comment. They did not respond.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.