Daniel Zachary Dasko, a substitute teacher and volunteer hockey coach in San Diego, has been arrested and charged with violation of Title 18, U.S.C. 2252 (a)(2) Distribution of Images of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct.
According to the Department of Justice news release, a review of Daniel Dasko’s iPhone revealed numerous conversations regarding child pornography using a social media application. Dasko was trading and producing images with another person who was identified as a teacher in the Philadelphia area. The teacher from Philadelphia and other coconspirators would pose as females on social media sites to chat with the victims.
They were baiting minor victims to send nude photos or videos, or to go live online and be screen-recorded. During a one-year period from October 3, 2020, to October 3, 2021, they exchanged over 3,671 messages, including numerous image and video files. The messages were conversations about sexually exploiting children they knew or met online.1
As we searched for more information on this case, we noticed red flags based on our experience working with survivors.
Red Flag #1 Dasko’s Employment History
Daniel Dasko’s file with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing shows that for six years Dasko had a 30-Day Substitute Teaching Permit and a Certificate of Clearance but not a teaching credential.2
Renewing a substitute certificate six years in a row versus taking the test to become a full-time credentialed teacher is questionable for a few reasons. Substituting is typically used as a way for new teachers to get their foot in the door so they can hopefully get hired full-time by a district. There is a fee to renew the substitute certificate each year. Substitutes do not receive the benefits and security that full-time teachers have such as higher pay, tenure, seniority, and retirement benefits.
According to Transparent California, Dasko worked as a substitute teacher at Del Mar Union Elementary, Encinitas Union Elementary, Rancho Santa Fe Elementary, Solana Beach Elementary, El Rancho Unified and San Dieguito Union High School Districts.3
Predators are often attracted to a specific age range. A benefit of being a substitute versus a full-time teacher is that substitutes choose which schools and classes they substitute for which gives them direct access to specific age groups. Substitutes can apply to several school districts at the same time. Moving from school to school, especially between different school districts, is a typical pattern of a predator.
According to Dasko’s LinkedIn profile4, he volunteered at Head Start by the Sea Encinitas as Teacher Support starting in July 2007. Dasko’s profile says he worked as a Marketing Intern at Webistan in the coordination of an international children’s photography contest. Dasko’s profile says he was a youth hockey coach at San Diego Ice Arena from Dec 2015 to the present.
Red Flag #2 Dasko’s Coaching History
Dasko was a volunteer coach for kids 12 years old and younger at the San Diego Ice Arena. Dasko’s USA Hockey Certification shows he was certified to coach 8 and under beginning 2015, 10 and under beginning 2018, and 12 and under beginning 2019.5
Predators volunteer for positions to gain access to kids. Coaching brings endless opportunities because there is a new influx of kids each season. You might wonder how abuse can happen in a situation where there is a team full of kids, multiple coaches, and lots of parents observing during practice. More than 90% of abuse is perpetrated by someone the victim knows. It begins with grooming, the act of slowly getting someone to let their guard down and trust you. Predators groom their victims and every bystander that surrounds their victims. This can include parents, coworkers, supervisors, and other kids. Predators cannot be successful at gaining access to kids if the adults do not trust them. When predators are exposed people are either in shock or complete denial. Predators are often referred to as the favorite teacher or coach.
Athletes are particularly vulnerable to abuse because of the nature of sports. Athletes are taught to do what they are told and not complain. Coaches demand respect and conformity. Coaches decide who starts, who plays, who sits on the bench, and who advances to the next level. If a parent questions a coach’s behavior, it can have repercussions for their kids. When a coach offers to spend extra time or train one-on-one it seems too good to pass up. Athletic teams often travel and stay in hotels.
Red Flag #3
When CBS8 interviewed Joel Henderson, president of the San Diego Ice Arena Oilers Hockey Club, he said, “I’ve been doing this over 40 years and, in my program, I can never remember any case that I have ever had involving children being abused in any way.”6
Rarely will you catch a predator in the act of molesting kids. Predatory behaviors show up as pushing boundaries, communicating outside of school or practice, interacting on social media or video games, one-on-one time, giving rides to and from school or practice, nicknames exchanged, playful physical touching such as tickling or smacking bottoms, gift giving, taking pictures, or treating them differently than others.
What do Red Flags mean?
Red flags are behaviors that raise a question or suspicion and should be further evaluated when there are multiple red flags, patterns, escalation, or any type of disclosure. They are not necessarily evidence of any wrongdoing.