Cobb school board member David Banks’ “ethnicity study” latest controversy

education icon with silhouette of teach in front of class, holding a baton to a board.

By Rebecca Gaunt

David Banks, vice chair of the Cobb County School Board, is stirring up backlash again with his latest email newsletter in which he states that two years ago he “embarked on creating an ethnicity study.”

According to Banks, the demographic data he cited came from the Georgia Department of Education and dates back to 1995. In addition to the charts, he adds his own observations:

  1. A reduction of 409 students for school year 2022
  2. The number of Hispanic students continues to increase
  3. The number of Black students continues to decrease starting in 2016
  4. The number of White students has continued to decrease since school year 1995
  5. The number of Asian students is beginning to level
  6. The student population continues to decrease starting in 2018. School year 2017 was the peak year

In the newsletter, Banks did not explain the purpose of the study or what prompted him to disseminate the data . It included a breakdown of posts 1, 2, 3 and 4, but not 5, 6 or 7. Despite stating he was including data for Marietta High School, which is part of Marietta City Schools, that was also missing.

The Courier reached out to him for clarification on the purpose of the study and how the board intends to use the data contained.

He wrote in an email that the remaining posts will be in the next newsletter and that the data has nothing to do with the school board.

As far as the purpose of the study, Banks responded, “Make your own observations.”

When asked about Banks’ ethnicity study, Chairman David Chastain responded in an email , “The Ethnic Study Mr. Banks distributes on his own, and at his own expense, to his private email list is his product alone. It is not related to any upcoming programs or initiatives in the Cobb District.”

The Grapevine newsletter was sent from Banks’ campaign email account. The header contains his photo and a subheading that says “Cobb County School Board Post 5.” The signature also includes his post as a board member. At the bottom, it says “Paid for by David Banks for Schools,” followed by a disclaimer that the contents are not representative of the board or district.

This is not the first time Banks’ use of email in his capacity as a board member has come under fire.

Parents have complained that they didn’t sign up for the newsletter and efforts to unsubscribe have failed. However, some of the contentious emails that caused past complaints were responses to parents who had reached out to him in his capacity as a board member.

An email he distributed in 2016, contained immigration “facts” like 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for “illegal aliens” and over two-thirds of all births in Los Angeles County are “to illegal alien Mexicans … whose births were paid for by taxpayers.” The Los Angeles Times had debunked the old circulating claims contained in the email back in 2007.

In 2020, he referred to COVID-19 as the China virus, something he has continued to do as recently as 2022.

Chastain, who was then serving a separate term as board chair, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017, that because Banks was distributing a forwarded email message to a personal distribution list using his personal email account, “this matter is not within (the board’s) legal purview.”

But in 2021, Banks used his official board email account to discourage vaccination and distributed information that claimed “the government was intentionally killing its citizens.”

An effort to censure him for improper behavior in 2012 failed when it didn’t garner enough votes from the board.

At the February 2021 board work session [1:08:55 mark], James Wilson, CEO of Education Planners, delivered the annual demographics study update, which is used to predict population growth and plan construction projects. Banks asked about ethnicity changes in Gwinnett County and how Cobb compared.

“It’s dramatic.Gwinnett County has changed almost 100% in the last few years, so I was just curious how we relate to other counties like Gwinnett, DeKalb, maybe Paulding, Cherokee, so forth,” Banks asked.

“Yeah, I would say we are better than they are in just about every single way,” Wilson replied with a chuckle.

Dr. Catherine Pozniak, a candidate for the Post 4 board seat currently occupied by Chastain, tweeted, “The “news” in this newsletter is not grounded in facts or even math. No one has time for a [thread] outlining all the mistakes + faulty assumptions…but these categories aren’t constant over time.”

Parent Laura Judge told the Courier, “I worry without context on why he is studying the ethnic makeup of Cobb Schools enrollment and emailing it to constituents. David Banks knows that this “study” will further the division with those who believe in the Great Replacement Theory. Especially now with administrative rules that have been implemented by the district to prevent the discussion of divisive topics. I was very vocal at both school board meetings and the Capitol when redistricting happened. Through redistricting, I will be stuck with him as my board member, even though I didn’t vote for him, for two years starting January 2023. This is not who we need representing East Cobb schools. He has a history of promoting division, using racist and xenophobic language, has emailed disinformation in regards to the pandemic, and falls asleep in meetings. The board members even tried to censure him in 2012, but now they just let him peddle inflammatory information.”

The district did not respond to requests for comment.

Chart included in the David Banks email newsletter

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.