It was a good day for a few students at Pikesville High School on Thursday hanging out in the parking lot after school. Their former athletic director, who they said belittled them and made them feel uncomfortable, wasn’t coming back.

Dazhon Darien, 31, was arrested by Baltimore County Police at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport that morning and charged with crimes related to the alleged use of artificial intelligence to impersonate Pikesville High Principal Eric Eiswert, leading the public to believe Eiswert made racist and antisemitic comments behind closed doors.

At least five seniors said they found it to be good news. They had been complaining, and some even reporting Darien’s behavior to school administrators throughout the school year, they said. To them, it felt like justice.

Darien could not be reached for comment by phone or at his home on Thursday.

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Maggie Omotosho, one of the seniors, said she was “hyped” about the news.

“It makes me happy that he’s actually out of the work field, and that he’s no longer bothering anyone because he made a lot of students uncomfortable and he made me uncomfortable,” Omotosho said.

During the first week of school, Darien’s first school year with Pikesville, Omotosho said he called her an ableist name. She said he unfairly enforced a dress code policy that she thought had to do with the shape of her body, and she said he fired her as football and basketball team manager for unfair reasons.

“What did I do? What did I do wrong?” Omotosho recalled asking Darien, who the students called “DJ.” “He was like, ‘I run Pikesville now.’”

Fellow senior Julian Solomon is on the football, wrestling and track teams at Pikesville High, but he said Darien made him not want to be an athlete anymore.

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“He made it really uncomfortable to even be here or be part of the athletic department or anything,” he said.

The former athletic director was like a mom to the athletes, Solomon said, but Darien was “power hungry.”

“He didn’t care about no one’s feelings or any input that we had,” he said. “On his first day here, he came in and told the seniors he doesn’t care about us, that we’re basically history and that they’re just trying to build for the freshmen.”

Solomon’s teammate, Gavin Coleman, said Darien would tell them they’d never be anything more than football players and he’d make “disrespectful and inappropriate comments.”

Both Solomon and Coleman said the football players had money collected to pay for uniforms, T-shirts and food for after the game, but there was no return on investment. They said they weren’t fed after games, the shirts they were supposed to wear to and from their games never came and neither did the uniforms.

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“I’m pretty sure I spent around $300 in the program and didn’t see like nothing,” Coleman said.

Ever since Darien left, Solomon said he’s been great. He’s running track right now and the school officials who took over the athletic director position make his life a lot easier.

Coleman, Omotosho and Solomon all said they reported Darien to a school administrator. They were told, according to Solomon, it’s up to central office to determine what happens after that.

A spokesperson for the school system declined to comment. Superintendent Myriam Rogers said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that school system officials are recommending Darien’s termination. Cindy Sexton, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the union that represents Darien, called the students’ claims “horrifying.” She said she couldn’t speak to their validity and that the union’s job is to make sure its agreement with the school system is followed.

Imani Jackson, a senior, said she was one of the first students who met Darien when he interviewed for the athletic director position. He was the strongest candidate she saw.

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“He presented that he was going to make the best change for our students and especially the athletic program,” Jackson said.

But it didn’t play out that way, according to Jackson. She said once the sports season started, problems with transportation, team pictures and team uniforms arose. He wasn’t a face students wanted to see, she said, and destroyed the good environment the school once had.

“Pikesville had a lot going for itself, and after all the controversies that we’re going through now, it’s like it could have been avoided,” Jackson said.

The school was abuzz when the recording first circulated social media, senior Huldah Djilioni said. In the recording, Eiswert’s voice can be heard saying disparaging comments about Black students and the Jewish community. For instance, the voice refers to “ungrateful Black kids who can’t test their way out of a paper bag” and questions how hard it is to get those students to meet grade-level expectations.

Like many in the public, the five seniors all thought, initially, it was a real recording of Eiswert. And despite the charges Darien faces, they still think Eiswert is capable of making the same remarks.

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Jackson said she felt he treated Black students differently and recalled a time when he threatened consequences for members of the Black Student Union for organizing a walkout.

“We could not stand behind Eiswert because he never stood behind us when he was in the school,” she said.

Through his union representative, Eiswert declined to comment.

The seniors said teachers and staff would stop students from talking about the audio by changing the subject or saying the speculation was above their pay grade, for example. Jackson said she planned to mention it during her graduation speech but was told she couldn’t talk about it at all. But there was one teacher who did bring it up, they said — Shaena Ravenell.

Ravenell was not charged with a crime but was one of the three teachers who received the audio the night before it went viral, according to Darien’s charging documents. She told police that she had forwarded the audio to a student’s cell phone “who she knew would rapidly spread the message around various social media outlets and throughout the school,” and also sent it to the media and the NAACP, police said.

Solomon said he remembers seeing Ravenell, a P.E. teacher, cry during class. Djilioni and Coleman said they remember Ravenell saying the audio was real.

Omotosho said Ravenell encouraged discussion about it in her health class.

“And she closed all the doors and made sure like everybody was comfortable and she talked about it,” Omotosho said.

“If it does come out that she was a part of it, I think that’s going to be an even bigger heartbreak than finding out DJ was,” she said.

Ravenell could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ravenell was a teacher a lot of the students looked up to, Omotosho said. Coleman and Solomon said she was a family friend. Rogers said at the news conference that she could not speak to whether Ravenell was still at the school; however, Pikesville students say she hasn’t been there since a week after the recording circulated.

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