The Center Square | by Scott McClallen | March 18, 2022
(The Center Square) – Rochester Community Schools (RCS) paid $188,750 to settle a lawsuit accusing the district of collecting a dossier of parents critical of school policies and calling one parent’s employer, leading to the parent’s dismissal.
The Center Square reported the lawsuit in February but couldn’t find the settlement amount except through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The settlement was split: lawyer Deborah Gordon received $72,540.36, while plaintiff Elena Dinverno received $116,209.64. In the lawsuit, Dinverno claimed she was fired because a school official called her employer and claimed she was threatening the district.
The settlement says parties must keep settlement terms confidential, and no one admitted liability.
Another clause says: “No statements by counsel will be made by counsel to television and radio broadcast outlets or newspaper outlets with regard to this matter other than that the case has been resolved and that the cease and desist order is null and void.”
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.”
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.
The Detroit News reported some employees spent up to 70% of their full-time job collecting dossiers that would be sent to school officials.
In the deposition, Shaner defended the district’s surveillance of parent social media accounts.
Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the free-market Mackinac Center For Public Policy, said schools should be seeking input from parents.
“Parents are the strongest advocates for their children’s education,” DeGrow wrote in an email. “Schools should be seeking their input, not making them the enemy. It’s extremely disappointing to see school districts take such dramatic efforts to stifle parents’ voices. Hopefully all school officials will take the lesson to heart and have greater respect for parents, to give their voices serious consideration when making decisions about policies impacting students.”
This week, RCS caught headlines again as a parent sued the district for allegedly refusing to fulfill a FOIA request seeking curriculum to a “History of Ethnic and Gender Studies” class. Despite paying $418 and waiting since December, Carol Beth Litkouhi, the mother of two Rochester district schoolchildren, still has no answers.