LI teacher gets $70G in age bias suit

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A former Mattituck-Cutchogue school district teacher has been awarded $70,000 by a federal jury on the grounds that his firing was motivated by age discrimination.

But the eight-person jury on Monday did not find that the district also discriminated against special-education teacher Anthony Claudio, of Mattituck, on the basis of gender when it denied him tenure in 2009.

Claudio, 50, unsuccessfully asked for an additional $300,000 on the claim of gender discrimination as well as money for other damages, according to his attorney, Frank Blangiardo of Cutchogue.

The jury in Central Islip did not explain the reasoning behind its verdict, according to Blangiardo and the school district's attorney, Jeltje DeJong of Smithtown.

Blangiardo said his client has been "absolutely vindicated," and he plans to ask the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco, to order Claudio reinstated. An order of reinstatement is up to a judge, not a jury, both attorneys said.

"He's an excellent teacher -- sorely missed," Blangiardo said of his client. "It will be a great day when he enters back into the school."

Blangiardo said his client was "the salt of the earth."

But DeJong said that the school board plans to ask Bianco not only to block Claudio from regaining his position, but also to overturn the verdict on the grounds that the jury went against the evidence.

DeJong said of Claudio: "He's a wonderful person. Extra energetic. A team player. A nice guy. But not good enough as a teacher."

Blangiardo had argued that his client was discriminated against because when he was fired from the special-education department in 2009, almost all the other special-education teachers were women who were younger than he; many had been tenured or were receiving tenure.

Blangiardo said Superintendent James McKenna opposed Claudio because McKenna likes to employ only young women whom he can mold to his way of teaching.

DeJong rejected that claim and said the only basis to deny Claudio tenure was his lack of competence as a teacher.

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