A union leader is denying that Pikesville High School principal Eric Eiswert made the racist and antisemitic comments in an audio recording circulating on social media, suggesting it was faked using artificial intelligence.
The recording, posted to the popular Instagram account murder_ink_baltimore on Wednesday, has prompted a Baltimore County Public Schools investigation.
“The BCPS Department of Schools was made aware of an alleged audio recording of Principal Eiswert that included derogatory remarks about some PHS students and staff,” Kyria Joseph, the department’s executive director, wrote in an email to the Pikesville High School community. “We immediately notified the BCPS Office of Investigations and they are investigating this matter. While this is a personnel matter and I am limited in what I can share, I will provide an update as soon as more information is available.”
In the recording, the person speaking refers to “ungrateful Black kids who can’t test their way out of a paper bag.”
The speaker goes on to question how hard it is to get those students to meet grade-level expectations. He uses names of people who appear to be staff members and says they should not have been hired. The speaker says he should get rid of another person “one way or another.”
“And if I have to get one more complaint from one more Jew in this community, I’m going to join the other side,” the voice in the recording stated.
Billy Burke, executive director of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees, the union that represents Baltimore County administrators, said the voice in the recording is not Eiswert.
“We believe that it is AI generated,” Burke said. “He did not say that.”
Burke said he didn’t want to speculate how or why someone would create an AI voice of Eiswert, but noted that no other voice can be heard in the recording.
“If I were in that position my heart would be a little broken today,” Burke said.
An automatic reply from Eiswert’s school email address directs inquires to Joseph.
The union leader said he isn’t sure how the principal is doing, but said Eiswert understands the gravity of the situation. “He denounces them [the comments in the recording], and he did not make those statements.”
Burke said he is making sure Eiswert gets his due process throughout the investigation.
The recording caught the attention of Baltimore County Council Chairman Izzy Patoka, who posted on X about the investigation.
In a message to the school community, Superintendent Myriam Rogers called the comments in the recording “highly offensive and inappropriate statements about African American students, Pikesville High School staff, and Pikesville’s Jewish community. These statements are deeply disturbing and do not reflect the core values of our school system.”
While the system cannot “confirm the veracity of this recording at this time, we are taking this matter seriously and have launched an investigation. Once we have determined the facts, we will swiftly address this incident,” Rogers added.
Danita Tolson, president of Baltimore County’s NAACP chapter, said she’s “disappointed but not surprised” by the alleged comments. It’s unfortunate, she added, that this happened so close to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and it’s not something King would stand for.
“People are feeling more open to speak their mind,” Tolson said.
She said the chapter has heard about Baltimore County students and staff being discriminated against, and at least one of those incidents happened at Pikesville High, she said.
“I’ll definitely be interested to see if he truly said it and it should be an eye-opener for anyone else even thinking about making other comments,” said Tolson. She added that the chapter will call for an immediate termination or resignation if Eiswert is found to have said the things in the recording.
Richard Forno, co-director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said it’s important for people to avoid jumping to conclusions when these things happen. He’s seen CEOs and public officials use AI as a scapegoat when denying comments others claim they made.
“There are people in the world that do get caught on tape saying things they shouldn’t,” Forno said, ”but technology makes it easy to make things appear as they’re not.”
It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to pull it off, according to Forno. Just a few sentences from a YouTube clip or media interview uploaded to an AI program would do the trick. “You could probably do this type of stuff on a computer,” he said.
He also compared it to swatting, which are fake reports of crimes or emergency situations, something Baltimore County Public Schools has seen a lot of. Forno said this type of AI influence could be the “next iteration of the high school prank.”