Parent files lawsuit, claims Rochester Community Schools got her fired after speaking out on in-person learning

Mother says she received a cease and desist letter

Parent files lawsuit, claims Rochester school district got her fired

ROCHESTER, Mich. – When and whether to offer in-person instruction amid the pandemic has been an emotional topic for school districts around Metro Detroit. And parent groups have formed on social media to talk it out.

The Rochester Community Schools has seen vigorous debate and an attempt to recall several board members.

Elena Dinverno is a mother of two and was vocal online about her desire to see her children return to face-to-face instruction.

READ: 100+ Grosse Pointe Public School teachers call in sick to protest loosened COVID precautions

“My client was nothing but polite and respectful online,” said employment attorney Deborah Gordon.

The school board did not see it that way. Dinverno said they sent her a cease and desist letter.

“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 said.

According to a federal lawsuit filed Monday, May 3, board President Kristin Bull contacted Blake’s Hard Cider in Armada where Dinverno was employed as a marketing director to complain about her social media posts.

“We do know that she was told that her employer did get a call from a board member ... And we know the termination followed thereafter,” Gordon said. “We also know other parents’ employers, we believe, have been contacted as well.”

Andrew Blake, president of the Blake’s Family of Companies, issued the following statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit:

“The Blake’s Family of Companies was recently made aware of Ms. Dinverno’s allegations against the Rochester school district. It is our policy to not discuss current or former employee matters publicly. Because Blake’s was not named in the lawsuit, we are unable to comment on it at this time.

“However, this incident has caused a great deal of disturbance to our operations with incoming threatening calls, emails and social media posts against our property and employees. While I understand we are in a time where free speech is being challenged and I am empathetic with the concern, Blake’s must now concentrate on the safety and well-being of our employees.

“It is our hope that the public will instead shift their focus on allowing our judicial system to handle this matter and to not continue to direct any frustration or anger towards our business and staff.”

Andrew Blake, President, The Blake Family of Companies

District says allegations are not true

A Rochester Community Schools district spokeswoman offered this statement on Wednesday, calling the allegations “false and unfounded”:

“The allegations in the complaint you have referenced are both false and unfounded. We wish we could discuss it in detail, but that it is not possible now that it is in litigation.

What we can tell you is that we all realize that this has been a trying year for many of our school community members, and we recognize that our families may be dealing with this pandemic in very different ways.

Nothing about this pandemic has been routine, easy or predictable. But ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our entire school community for both children and adults has always been the right thing to do.

We have all wanted the same thing during this once-in-a-century pandemic – to get our children back to in-person instruction with as much of a normal routine as possible – but we had to do so in a safe and healthy way that protected our students, teachers, staff and families, including parents and grandparents.”

Lori Grein, Executive Director Strategic Communications, Rochester Community Schools

More: Return to School updates

About the Authors:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.