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Lawrence Schools Settles 'Anti-Orthodox' Firing Case

Lawrence Middle School
Lawrence Middle School

The Lawrence School District has settled a lawsuit for $145,000 that was brought by former guidance counselor Jay Silverstein, who alleged he was fired for being viewed as “anti-Orthodox,” according to his attorney.

Silverstein, of Atlantic Beach, alleged in his 2010 lawsuit that he was let go from his $140,000-a-year guidance director's job because Lawrence School Board members, who are mostly Orthodox Jews, viewed him as "anti-Orthodox." The suit alleged that the firing violated Silverstein’s right to freedom of speech.

“I'm happy that my client received some restitution. He performed his job duties admirably and should not have been treated this way,” Silverstein’s attorney, Rick Ostrove of the Carle Place law firm Leeds Brown Law P.C., said in a press release. “Perceptions about religion should never play any role in how our public schools operate." 

Lawrence School District officials could not be reached for comment by press time.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Wall, in Central Islip, ordered the case closed on June 19. The settlement was reached earlier this year and was approved by the Lawrence school board at a special meeting on May 30, according to a press release.

In his lawsuit, Silverstein said he was advised by then-Superintendent Dr. John Fitzsimons that he could “boost his chances of obtaining job tenure by becoming friendlier with board members and with a fellow administrator who was said to be Orthodox and influential,” the press release says.

Silverstein never received tenure and was terminated by the district in November 2009, despite strong job performance ratings, according to the suit. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Lawrence School Board in 2010. Silverstein now works as a consultant and does private counseling.

Sam Livingston June 21, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Another waste of the taxpayers dollars by a school board that doesn't properly represent the student body of the school. Shame what has happened to such a once wonderful school district. Lawrence Pride still lives on with many graduates and few others. The school board should be made up by parents of Lawrence students or graduates, NOT those sending their kids to other schools.
BETTE June 21, 2013 at 07:50 PM
As a former graduate of the Lawrence District and the mother of two children who also went through the district, I find it appalling what this district has become. We were one of the top districts on Long Island for many, many years. I, too, agree that the board should represent the student body. If this had been done, this district would be in a totally different place today.
Mitchell A. Greebel June 21, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Mr. Livingston - Does that mean people who never had children in the District are excluded from serving on a School Board? I learn so much from such enlightened thinking. Next you're going to tell us you aren't anti-Orthodox too, correct?
Riva Berg Aronson June 21, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Mr. Livingston has the right idea. Lawrence had one of the finest reputations, with the emphasis on the word had. Yes, the Board of Education should be made up of parents, grandparents and/or former students of District # 15 schools. But, I do believe that it is too late. Feel free Mr. Greebel to telephone me so that I may enlighten you! It seems that your quick to pull the old anti-Orthodox excuse. Please tell me who "us" is in your statement and then I will tell you about the district that once was and what happened!
Mitchell A. Greebel June 22, 2013 at 08:46 AM
Ms. Aronson - I appreciate your comments and opinion but it was not I who invoked the us vs. them comment. The suggestion that any part of any community has no business serving on a school board is not only the antithesis of what this country is about, its offensive to my sensibitles as a taxpaying American. And by the way the "us" I was referencing is simply all taxpayers. While I am not a member of the orthodox community I am at a loss as to how things in my next door neighbors School District has turned so ugly and more importantly, so unnecessary. The threads that bind us as Americans are what communities need to focus on versus those that separate us and until there is an effort to understand each other and work towards our common goals everyone suffers. And feel free to contact me anytime. PLease feel fee to contact me anytime so that I might enlighten you on what it is to be an American.
Sam Livingston June 22, 2013 at 09:09 AM
Dual reply to Riva and Mitchell. First, Riva thank you for the kind words and support! I am a graduate of LHS and have lived in the community (both districts 14 & 15) my entire life. I am far from "anti-orthodox" and your saying that reminds me of all the people who pull the race card on anything that you don't agree with them on. I'll amend my comment on who should sit on the school board to include people who have the best interest in the student body who attends the school, rather than all the "special interests" which include busing and other outside the district expenses for those who choose to attend non-public schools. Just so you don't go off on playing another "card", I happen to sit on the board of a Jewish non-for-profit and am a believer in equal rights for all. I HATE (and use that word sparingly) all the set-asides and special treatments that so many groups call for playing all sorts of "cards" to get.
Mitchell A. Greebel June 22, 2013 at 09:37 AM
Mr. Livingston - I agree with your last comment 100%. However, it was not I who played the race card but was merely responding to what I read to be your doing the same thing. And I would like to believe you'd support ANY candidate from ANY portion of your community who has the best interest in the student body who attends the school, including but not limited to empty nesters, orthodox or individuals who in fact , never had children to attend your public schools.
Sam Livingston June 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM
Mr. Greebel- Thank you. I was playing no card, but merely voicing my opinion that the best qualified people for the school board are those who don't have an outside agenda. I start out being "blind" to ones race, creed or sect and make my judgements after seeing and hearing their actions. I've seen the good and the bad in many different people, many of which consider themselves "pious" in their own religion (NOT picking on any one group). I don't believe someone whose children go to a religious school has the same interest as one who don't. Not having children but seeing how a strong school district can positively effect the value of ones home is also a valid consideration. The same home on a comparable piece of land can vary in price by over $100,000 in a different district, even if its in the same neighborhood.
Mitchell A. Greebel June 22, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Mr. Livingston - Once again, I agree with your opinion and I apologize for mistaking your frame of reference with regard to your original post.
Sam Livingston June 23, 2013 at 06:34 AM
Mr. Greebel- Apology gracefully accepted. Enjoy the week-end.
Joseph Tabak June 24, 2013 at 07:03 AM
Mr. Livingston-Please explain how the public school has deteriorated so much that in your opinion housing prices have dropped. Please explain what any individual who is on the board has effected the decline of the once great school.
Riva Berg Aronson June 24, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Mr. Greebel I am most interested in your educating me on what it is to be an American! I certainly do not know what that has to do with the topic at hand. I write as a former resident, graduate, daughter of a graduate, wife of a graduate, and a daughter of a former administrator of District 15. I don't know what your connection to that district is.
Joseph Tabak June 25, 2013 at 07:55 PM
Riva, Please clarify what is wrong school district 15 How did any past administration have a negative role?
Riva Berg Aronson June 30, 2013 at 03:38 PM
It is in fact the more recent school board trustees going back for about 20 years or sothat have had a negative impact on the schools. The more recent boards do not represent the children attending the public schools. Their agenda is more for the community at large as opposed to the education, health, and welfare of the students within and of course the teachers! Lawrence never went on austerity back in the day. It is not the administration within the schools it is directly the school board.

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