by Scott McClallen
Rochester Community School (RCS) officials were sued for compiling a dossier on parents who commented negatively on the school’s virtual learning policy. One official even called a parent’s employer, which possibly resulted in the parent’s termination.
Parent Elena Dinverno sued the district in 2021, claiming school officials called her place of work in the fall of 2020, and told her employer Dinverno was part of a group threatening the school district. She was fired in December 2020.
The Detroit News first reported the story.
A lawsuit filed on May 3, 2021, claims Dinverno advocated on two separate Facebook groups to reopen schools in-person: “RCS Parents for In-Person Education” and “Conservative Parents for Rochester.” Dinverno asked other parents for video testimony of how virtual school was hurting kids.
In a February 3 deposition, Superintendent Robert Shaner admitted he called the parent’s employer over a parent’s social media post encouraging protesting private homes over virtual learning because he was “scared.”
Shaner said he believing the woman had submitted a written threat to the district, although never asked further details. He defended the district’s surveillance of parent social media accounts in the deposition.
“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,” Shane told Deborah Gordon, Dinverno’s attorney.
“Yeah, so again, I just want to be clear about the social media,” Shane said. “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…”.
The lawsuit alleges that RCS public relations members Amy DiCresce and Lori Grein were assigned to compile a dossier on district parents’ social media posts and comments critical of the school district, which were circulated to school officials.
Gordon told the News that the school spent taxpayer money to surveil parent’s social media posts and gather personal information, including place of employment, names of children, and the schools they attend.
“I have found at taxpayer expense they had high-level people spending hours monitoring parents’ social posts,” Gordon told The News. “I was stunned. I have a stack that is like a phone book. This was an active group that wanted their kids back in school.”
Gordon said the district “did not advise parents or the community that their speech was being closely monitored and documented.”
Rochester Community Schools declined to say the settlement amount. The Center Square has filed a FOIA request for the amount, as taxpayers fund public schools.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.