Gym Teacher Arrested for Using AI to Make Principal Say Racist Things

Blackmail Order

A Baltimore-area educator has been arrested after he allegedly used AI to deepfake his school's principal into spewing bigotry, in a misfired blackmail scheme.

As the Baltimore Banner and other news outlets report, now-former athletic director Dazhon Darien has been charged with several crimes after audio surfaced of Pikesville High School principal Eric Eiswert seeming to make racist and anti-Semitic comments about students and staff.

In January, Eiswert was suspended from his principalship after the recordings, which included racial slurs and violent rhetoric, circulated on a popular Baltimore meme account. During an investigation, school officials and police began to suspect Darien — who dramatically apprehended at Baltimore-Washington International Airport for trying to take a gun onto a flight to Houston — the Banner reports.

While AI was allegedly used to create the ersatz blackmail material, Darien's charges are not directly related to the AI creation because Maryland, like most other states, doesn't have any laws on the books regarding nonconsensual deepfakes.

Instead, the 31-year-old ex-gym teacher is being charged with disrupting school operations, retaliation, stalking, and theft.

Smoking Gun

As the Banner reports, Darien allegedly concocted and executed his blackmail scheme after Eiswert began investigating him for directing payments to his roommate under the pretense of work for the school.

In his alleged blackmail attempts, the erstwhile gym teacher didn't seem to cover his tracks very well. As police told the New York Times, he used school computers to search for AI tools and later, a third-party email address from which he emailed the recordings was linked to his phone number.

"Ungrateful Black kids who can’t test their way out of a paper bag," the AI-generated imitation of the principal intoned in one recording. In another, the voice that was thought to be Eiswert's said that if it got "one more complaint from one more Jew in this community, I’m going to join the other side."

After another teacher sent the recordings to a student who they knew would spread the word — which is also, we might add, a pretty improper thing for a teacher to do regardless of the content or parties involved — the fake audio subsequently went viral, leading to an unsurprising public outcry and calls for Eiswert's sacking.

In charging documents viewed by the Banner, Baltimore County police said that Darien's alleged actions "had profound repercussions" for the principal and the Pikesville High community.

"It not only led to Eiswert’s temporary removal from the school," police said, "but also triggered a wave of hate-filled messages on social media and numerous calls to the school."

Though it's not the first of its kind, this shocking case demonstrates one of the most dystopian (and predictable) uses of generative AI — and, thankfully, offers an example of how this sort of fiasco should be handled.

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