2012 Top Story No. 4: Fired teacher sues Mattituck School District

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12/28/2012 8:00 AM |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Anthony Claudio enters the federal courthouse in Central Islip in October.

More than three years after he was fired from Mattituck High School, Anthony Claudio learned Oct. 22 he’d receive one more paycheck from the district. 

That’s because a jury found the school district discriminated against the former special education teacher due to his age when it denied him tenure in 2009.

The eight-member jury awarded the 50-year-old Mr. Claudio $70,000 in back pay. He was not awarded liquidated damages or damages for emotional distress, as he sought in his complaint. Liquidated damages are awarded when a defendant, in this case Mattituck superintendent James McKenna, knows his conduct violates federal law.

Mr. Claudio alleged in his complaint, which was filed soon after he was terminated, that he was fired from a special education department where 28 of 30 employees were female and most were younger than 30.

At the conclusion of the trial, which began Oct. 9 before Judge Joseph Bianco at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Mr. Claudio stood up, turned around and kissed his teary-eyed wife, Mary.

Outside the courtroom, his only comment was to say the verdict “speaks for itself.”

Mr. McKenna offered a brief prepared statement.

“The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District made the right decision to terminate Mr. Claudio in the interest of special education students of the district,” he said. “The jury has rendered a decision that said the district did not willfully wrong Mr. Claudio. The board will consult with our attorney about next steps.”

Last month, Mattituck-Cutchogue teachers turned out in force during a school board meeting to support Mr. McKenna after the district was recently found liable for age discrimination.

Longtime Mattituck High School English teacher Tom Brennan read a letter during the meeting supporting Mr. McKenna, asking the roughly two dozen teachers in attendance to rise from their seats to show their solidarity with the superintendent.

“You are a good man with a genuine sense of decency. I proudly work under your leadership,” he told the superintendent.