Jury deliberates in Mattituck schools discrimination case

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10/17/2012 6:00 PM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Former Mattituck teacher Anthony Claudio, right, enters the federal courthouse in Central Islip Wednesday morning.

The jury will deliberate Thursday morning in former Mattituck-Cutchogue special education teacher Anthony Claudio’s age and gender discrimination case against his former employer.

Mr. Claudio, 50, alleges in his complaint, which was filed in 2009, that he was terminated from a special education department where 28 of 30 employees were female and most were younger than 30. He’s seeking reinstatement, back pay and punitive damages.

Mr. Claudio was one of four witnesses who testified Wednesday morning. Superintendent James McKenna, high school principal Shawn Petretti and former school board member Lynne Krauza also testified on the fifth day of testimony in the trial, which began Oct. 9 before Judge Joseph Bianco at the federal courthouse in Central Islip.

Defense attorney Jeltje DeJong delivered her closing argument Wednesday afternoon, in which she argued that Mr. Claudio was well-liked in his time with the district but was not an effective classroom instructor.

“Everyone, including Mr. McKenna, likes Mr. Claudio,” Ms. DeJong said. “But that doesn’t make him a good special education teacher.”

Mr. Claudio’s attorney, Frank Blangiardo of Cutchogue, said in his rebuttal that the plaintiff didn’t have a chance of maintaining his employment in a special education department where women outnumbered men 8 to 1 under Mr. McKenna’s administration.

“Thirty-eight women, two males, we know that is way too low,” Mr. Blangiardo told the jury. “[Men make up] 5 percent of the special education department. One of them was Mr. Claudio and he got terminated.”

After dismissing the jury for the day Wednesday, Judge Bianco had more harsh words for Mr. Blangiardo, who was reprimanded frequently throughout the trial. The judge said he found it troubling that the attorney told the jury in his rebuttal that if they found the district discriminated against Mr. Claudio then that would help to remove Mr. McKenna from his position.

“That’s not proper,” Judge Bianco said. “There’s a long list, but I’m not going to go through it now. I’m going to leave it up to the jury.”

The eight members of the jury were instructed to return to the courthouse Thursday for deliberation beginning at 9:45 a.m.

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