Elena Dinverno, a mother of two at Rochester Community Schools, sued the school district, saying the board chairman contacted her employer and fired her for posting content on social media calling for the school to reopen. school.
Dinverno on Monday filed a civil action in U.S. District Court in Detroit against Oakland District Board Chair Kristin Bull and Superintendent Robert Shaner, claiming they violated his First Amendment to the freedom of expression, Detroit News reported.
According to the lawsuit, Dinverno was an active member of two Facebook groups, “RCS Parents for In-Person Education” and “Conservative Parents for Rochester,” which regularly criticized the conduct and leadership of the school district during the COVID-19 pandemic. In one of the groups, Dinverno asked for video testimonials from parents and students struggling with the challenges of virtual learning and distance education.
The lawsuit alleges that a board member called his workplace, Blake’s Hard Cider Co. in Armada, and accused Dinverno of threatening the school district by engaging in his online Facebook forums. The company subsequently terminated Dinverno’s employment on December 18, according to the lawsuit.
Dinverno said the district sent her a cease and desist letter on Jan. 14 stating that the contribution she made to the board and the posts she wrote to Facebook groups were “false. and are damaging to the board, and threaten further injury if left. not corrected. “
The parent alleges Bull threatened to cancel a “40 under 40” award for Andrew Blake, the president of the cider company, if he did not speak about Dinverno’s activity online regarding advocacy for the reopening of school.
Dinverno says Blake’s human resources manager asked her to “… look at what she was saying on the online forums.”
His lawyer, Deborah Gordon, said: “This is a government entity for which you are entitled to your First Amendment rights, unless someone uses threatening language. But above giving an opinion? There is nothing to watch over his speech.
Dinverno’s lawyers argue that his speech was constitutionally protected and that the defendants violated his freedoms by pressuring and threatening his employer “with adverse professional ramifications.”
Attorneys for Dinverno asserted that the school district often contacts the professions of parents who oppose school board decisions “for the purpose of coercing, threatening or manipulating said employers into dissociating themselves from parents and encourage employers to take adverse employment action against parents. “