A lawsuit alleges the Rochester, Michigan, school board president got a parent fired from her job after she complained about the district not reopening to fulltime in-person instruction.
WDIV described Elena Dinverno as “a mother of two and was vocal online about her desire to see her children return to face-to-face instruction” at Rochester Community Schools (RCS).
The suit, filed Monday in United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan, claims board president Kristin Bull, an editor and director of program content for Crain’s Detroit Business, was unhappy that Dinverno was a member of two Facebook groups, “RCS Parents for In-Person Education” and “Conservative Parents for Rochester.”
The filing says Dinverno “became a vocal and effective advocate for her position” and “frequently questioned and criticized the decisions of the RCS Board of Education through posts and comments in the Facebook groups.”
“My client was nothing but polite and respectful online,” employment attorney Deborah Gordon told the news station.
Dinverno organized parents to tell their stories via testimonials about the hardships students have endured amid Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) ongoing lockdown orders and the district’s reluctance to reopen for fulltime in-person learning.
According to the suit, in the fall of 2020, Bull contacted Dinverno’s employer, Blake’s Hard Cider, “a family-owned craft cidery” in Armada:
After falsely claiming that Ms. Dinverno was part of a group that was making threats against the school district, Ms. Bull, an employee of Crain’s, noted that Andrew Blake had recently been named one of Crain’s Detroit Business’s “40 under 40.” Ms. Bull threatened to revoke the accolade, which was to be announced publicly in November, due to Ms. Dinverno’s alleged conduct.
It was then, the lawsuit alleges, Dinverno’s employer asked her to “explain her involvement” in the groups. Dinverno complained to the school district in December 2020 about the board president’s apparent intimidation tactic.
Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaner allegedly said there was nothing he could do about it. A short time later, Dinverno was fired after being told “her position was no longer necessary.”
She was sent a cease and desist letter after speaking during a board public comment period in January.
“This district is ‘thin-skinned’ with an inability to follow the law that they are literally hiring lawyers at the taxpayers’ expense to send cease and desist letters not just to my client, but to others,” Gordon told WDIV.
The suit alleges other parents who were critical of the school board also had their employers contacted.
The lawsuit, filed by Deborah Gordon Law, claims Dinverno’s First Amendment rights were violated and seeks compensatory damages for Dinverno’s “past and future economic and non-economic damages” and an order prohibiting the school district from “any further acts of wrongdoing or retaliation against” her and a declaratory judgement that her First Amendment rights were violated.
“The allegations in the complaint you have referenced are both false and unfounded,” Lori Grein, executive director of strategic communications for the district, told Breitbart News.
She said students returned “to our buildings, full-time, five days a week by March 1, 2021.”
The case is Dinverno v. Rochester Community Schools District, No. 2:21-cv-11001-MAG-KGA in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.