Dazhon Darien stepped into the position of director of student life at Colorado Mesa University in November 2018. By February, he told the student newspaper, he had been fired.

It was a short stint, characteristic of the 31-year-old’s career crisscrossing the country for various positions at high schools and small colleges.

That includes Pikesville High School, where he was hired as athletic director in July 2023 and quickly butted heads with administrators. Now, he is facing charges of theft, retaliating against a witness, stalking and disrupting school activities after police determined he created a fake recording using AI that portrayed Pikesville’s principal making racist and other insensitive remarks.

He did this, authorities say, in retaliation for an investigation into him improperly using school funds. The recording went viral on social media in January and threw the school community into upheaval.

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Darien could not be reached for comment.

Available information about Darien is scattered and often vague, but suggests a tumultuous life. He appears to have held jobs in at least five states. In one of the most detailed accounts of his background, introducing himself in 2021 for a new teaching position in Texas, he appears to overstate his credentials — he says he worked “the last 8 years in higher education as an administrator in student affairs,” and “serving in the positions of Director of Student Life and Dean of Students.”

But a LinkedIn profile deleted after his arrest listed only two stints in such positions, which those universities said lasted only a handful of months each, and The Banner found no references to him holding similar positions. He also claimed in that account to have a child in college; he was 29 at the time.

Baltimore County Public Schools officials did not immediately answer questions about vetting Darien’s credentials or the system’s hiring practices generally.

Five seniors at Pikesville High School described Darien, who they called by the nickname “DJ,” as “power-hungry” and said he made “disrespectful and inappropriate comments” and snap decisions about personnel. Imani Jackson, a senior who met with Darien when he interviewed, said he was the strongest candidate, but that problems quickly arose in the athletic department with transportation, team pictures and team uniforms.

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Parker Bratton, who Darien brought on as a golf coach, was holding practices at a nearby course when Darien encouraged him to practice on the school campus instead, “where there’s no golf facility, no mats, in an open field.”

“He was like, ‘I’ll run to Dick’s and grab a couple couple balls.’ Bro, we can’t do golf practice with 20 golf balls in an open field,” Bratton said.

Darien said in one online bio that he grew up in Baltimore and Los Angeles, which an aunt confirmed when reached by phone, saying he was the child of military veterans. According to a high school sports website, he played football at Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville for at least one year, 2006, and was listed on the roster for 2008.

“He likes to go to different places,” said the aunt, Tina Darien. “He’s used to it, because he was kind of like state-to-state growing up.”

He then attended Langston University, a historically Black university in Oklahoma, where in 2011 he hosted a student radio show and organized protests over the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, according to news reports.

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“This is big for Langston University,” Dazhon Darien told the Stillwater News Press at the time. “It’s special to see this many people come out here and band together to such a great cause.”

According to another high school sports site, he was an assistant football coach while attending Langston, and moved to Florida in 2015 to work as a defensive coordinator at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, which could not immediately be confirmed by the school system. Traffic tickets issued to Darien in Florida at the time confirm he was living there.

The same high school sports site said he left Gibbs the following year to become defensive coordinator at Thousand Oaks High School in California, where he was listed as a “walk-on coach” through at least 2018. Walk-ons are not school employees, but coach school athletic teams.

He joined Colorado Mesa University in late 2018. He told the student newspaper that he was excited for the opportunity, and looking to make positive change. “It’s always a tricky thing because a person not only has to speak to being a competent professional in an administrator, but they also have to speak to the heartbeat of the students and understand what they want and how to achieve those goals,” he said at the time.

Three months later, he was fired: “Ultimately I don’t think some students and members of the Students Life team was ready for a Director who had vision and wanted to change things,” Darien said. The newspaper wrote that he did not respond to questions about what his vision was.

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Two sites list Darien as working at Texas Southern University as a freshman advisor in the fall of 2018 and another stint in 2019.

Business records show he created a trucking company in 2020 — the company in various databases lists addresses in California and Maryland — and the next year received a $20,833 loan from Paycheck Protection Program to support that business.

He registered to vote in Dayton, Ohio, that fall, and worked at nearby Earlham College from August to December 2020, according to its human resources office. A since-deleted LinkedIn page said he was director of student engagement there, then attended St. Edward’s University beginning in December 2020.

By the 2021-2022 school year, he was introducing himself in a letter to students and staff at James Madison High School in Houston. He said he had “attended the most illustrious institution of higher education Southern University A&M College located in Baton Rouge, LA,” and was pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership. A school official said he attended for three semesters, from 2013 to 2014, and did not earn a degree. Darien said he had a master’s degree, but did not say from where.

A photo from Darien’s now-deleted LinkedIn account.

At Madison, he said he was teaching algebraic reasoning and serving as the defensive coordinator for the school football team.

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Texas education officials did not respond to requests for information about when Darien left that post or why.

He got the Pikesville job in the summer of 2023, posting on a since-locked-down Facebook page: “Well its official back to the DMV. Starting July 1st I’ll be the new Athletic Director at Pikesville High School. Go Panthers!!”

Later, he posted about wanting to create an “HBCU Style Marching Band and expand the dance program” and looking for a varsity head boys basketball coach.

Bratton, the former golf coach, said he quickly heard concerns from other coaches and began to see red flags himself. “This guy is up to something weird,” one coach told him.

Bratton said he was assured that he would receive a stipend to coach, and that he was asked to fill out what seemed like an excessive amount of paperwork, including background checks that he was told weren’t processed until he had already coached the team through the season. The pay was less than he had been promised, he said.

“He was not protecting myself, not protecting the kids. Heaven forbid I was a creeper; I was coaching and my paperwork hadn’t gone through,” Bratton said.

Despite the criticism, Darien had allies at the school. According to County Police, Darien made payments to a junior varsity basketball coach — who was also his roommate — by bypassing protocols. The payment was made under the pretense that the coach was also coaching girls soccer, but that team’s coach and players told school officials he never assisted during the season, police said.

Confronted about the payment, Darien said it was a mistake, police said.

Three of Darien’s friends at the school were also often seen with him at athletic functions, and the principal asked one of them if Darien was promising her payment, according to charging documents. The friend told the principal that Darien had promised to “take care of it.”

The principal told her that “there is no assistant AD position or any additional money in the budget to pay teachers beyond what is allotted per their required days.”

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