A group of middle and high school principals from across the country is calling on the U.S. Department of Education to come up with more ways they can protect themselves from artificial intelligence.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals learned about the arrest of a former athletic director from a Baltimore Banner story. Authorities say he used AI to impersonate Pikesville High School’s principal, leading the public to believe the principal had been caught on tape making racist and antisemitic comments.

Baltimore County Police in April charged Dazhon Darien with crimes related to what they say is an audio deepfake, or a computer-generated voice that sounds just like the principal, Eric Eiswert.

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That was alarming for the principals association.

Previously, members saw the benefits of embracing AI. They’d contemplated questions like, “How can we use AI? What can we learn from AI? And how can it help us prioritize and take all that other stuff off the plate so we can do the work that we really care about?” said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the association.

They could handle kids creating fake social media pages to impersonate someone. “But then the deepfake issue took it to a whole other level,” he said.

Now they’re worried about copycats.

An AI expert told The Banner that the audio allegedly impersonating Eiswert isn’t particularly sophisticated. The Nieman Journalism Lab reported that it doesn’t take much authentic audio or money to create a fake recording. A single minute’s recording of someone’s voice and a $5 a month AI tool is all one needs.

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Now is the time to be proactive, said Nozoe. But the association members aren’t digital safeguard policymakers.

So they alerted lawmakers, the U.S. Department of Education and organizations that specialize in education technology. They asked them to develop guidance that will help schools navigate these situations and to update protections for principals.

In return, the principal association will offer the help of its members, who may sit on potential focus groups and provide any context officials may need.

“Once you develop that stuff, we’ll stand behind it and help get the word out,” Nozoe said.

Some guidance exists, but it’s mostly focused on how the technology is used in the classroom. The American Federation of Teachers, for example, released a report with “commonsense guardrails” for technology use in schools that stresses safety and privacy but includes nothing specific about protecting administrators and staff.

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Same with the U.S. Department of Education’s 2023 report, which concerns protecting student and educator data.

“It’s just a matter of everybody getting together and coming up with some good guidance that we can release quickly,” Nozoe said.

About the Education Hub

This reporting is part of The Banner’s Education Hub, community-funded journalism that provides parents with resources they need to make decisions about how their children learn. Read more.