ROCHESTER, Mich. – Elena Dinverno was a mom worried about how her son was doing with online learning. Never did she imagine it would cost her her job.
That’s precisely what Dinverno says happened when a deputy superintendent from Rochester Community Schools called her employer, Blake’s Hard Cider, and claimed she was engaging in threatening behavior.
“To use the energy, money, and time for something like this when truly none of us have done anything wrong is just sad,” said Dinverno.
Dinverno, like many Rochester schools parents, was online discussing frustrations with not having an in-person option for students while also being dissatisfied with how the online learning was being conducted.
She encouraged parents to send videos of their students’ struggles to the school board; that’s when her employer was called, and shortly after that, she was terminated.
“I was in shock,” Dinverno said. “I think I was actually in tears. I was so upset that it would come up to that and that someone would actually reach out to my employer. I felt violated.”
Dinverno sued the school district and will now be getting a check from them, although the terms say she can’t divulge it. Depositions, in this case, offer a window into how the district was operating.
Two parents had their employers called claiming they were engaging in threatening behavior, and the staff was directed to monitor Facebook groups. Vocal parents had their comments screen-captured and put into reports along with information like how many children they had in school and passed out to school board members.
Some were even sent cease and desist letters.
“These letters of intimidation were definitely a tactic to try and silence many of us and to paint us as unstable parents, crazy parents,” Dinverno said.
The district sent out this statement about the settlement in the case.
Dinverno retained well-known employment attorney Deborah Gordon.
“I’m so proud of her,” Gordon said. “I’ve said this to juries over the years. If it wasn’t for private people that had the guts and the wherewithal to enforce these laws here in the constitution, none of this would happen.”
Parents in the district had complained of bullying by the administration before the Dinverno lawsuit; after some of the details were made public, it brought out a large crowd Monday (Feb. 28) night with many demanding the superintendent’s termination and the resignation of some board members.