Rochester, MI – Parents are calling for the resignation the Rochester schools superintendent as the school district settles a lawsuit by a parent who was fired from her job after a deputy superintendent reported her social media posts critical of school policies to her employer.
Elena Dinverno, a parent with two children in the Rochester Community Schools, said the problem occurred when she participated in a Facebook group that supported re-opening schools for in-person instruction in 2020, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Dinverno said she frequently publicly-questioned the decisions the school board was making.
A lawsuit she filed in May of 2021 against the Rochester Community Schools said that the mother was fired from her job after a school board member contacted her employer and falsely claimed she had made threats against the school board, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Court filings indicate that the school district has since acknowledged that it was actually a deputy superintendent who reported parents’ posts to at least two employers and one police department, the Detroit News reported.
The amended version of the lawsuit alleged Rochester Community Schools Deputy Superintendent Debi Fragomeni called Dinverno’s employer, Marty Blake, and reported “that Ms. Dinverno was part of a group that was making threats against the school district,” FOX News reported.
Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner defended the deputy superintendent’s actions in depositions related to the lawsuit.
Shaner said Fragomeni called the police because she was “concerned and scared” about the “aggressive” social media posts made by parents of students in the district, WCRZ reported.
“Yeah, so again, I just want to be clear about the social media,” the superintendent testified. “We do watch it and try to make sure we know what’s going on in our community, but that’s not the only place that we get information on social media. Believe it or not, there are parents that support what we are doing, and they often share what’s going on in social media with us as well…”
“Yeah, we value the input of all parents, and we certainly want to keep our thumb on the pulse of the community, so we monitor social media very closely on all fronts and make sure we’re responsive to the community,” Shaner added.
Dinverno, a marketing director for Blake’s Hard Cider, was terminated from her job shortly thereafter, WJBK reported.
“By reporting parents you are risking their livelihood. Their employment,” the mother wrote in a letter to the Board of Education about the school district’s interference, according to FOX News.
“That is all they have right now. I know you all understand that kids are sad, hurting, giving up, and as parents we will go whatever is necessary for our children. Parents are hurting too,” Dinverno wrote.
Her lawsuit against the school district accused administrators of violations of her First Amendment rights when they complained about her social media posts to her employers.
The complaint also alleged that school district officials “were assigned to regularly capture screenshots of district parents’ social media posts and comments which criticized the school district and to compile dossiers of the screenshots, which were circulated to members of RCS administration and BOE members,” FOX News reported.
The lawsuit said those dossiers had “annotations containing personal information about district parents such as their place of employment, the names of their children and which schools their children attended.”
Dinverno’s lawsuit sought “past and future economic and non-economic damages” and an injunction prohibiting further retaliation by the school district, WCRZ reported.
The school district reportedly reached a deal to settle Dinverno’s lawsuit on Feb. 28, although details have not yet been released by either party.