Joan Naydich, the 58-year-old Matanzas High School paraprofessional attacked by one of her special education students on Feb. 21 had alerted the classroom teacher as far back as late August of the student’s aggression and belligerence, according to a petition for an injunction she filed at the end of February.
Naydich in the document says she suffered two broken ribs when 17-year-old Brendan Depa rushed her, threw her across the floor of a school hallway, then punched and kicked her repeatedly as she appeared unresponsive.
The incident drew international attention for its violence, captured on surveillance video–there is no footage of what took place in the classroom prior to the attack–but also put a spotlight on the vulnerability of school employees in certain situations, and in this case with a special education student with autism who had special needs, was medicated, and was known to have significant psychological issues, as court papers have confirmed.
Depa was charged as an adult with a first degree felony, but his competency to stand trial is in question. He is undergoing a psychological evaluation. Those results will be presented to a circuit judge, who will determine whether Depa is to stand trial or be committed either to a state hospital or to an alternate, controlled setting.
The injunction document Naydich filed on Feb. 27 reveal for the first time in her words what took place–and indicates that, in fact, a Nintendo game did play a role in the incident. Depa had reported to a sheriff’s deputy that he became angry when the aide took a Nintendo game away from him. That detail was reported by the deputy in his arrest report. Naydich, on a GoFundMe page now verging on $100,000 in contributions, disputed that she had taken away the Nintendo game. “For the record, I NEVER took or touched any device. This information was incorrect and may have been said by the other party when being taken into custody,” Naydich wrote.
The account Naydich provides fills in the time between what took place immediately before the attack, in the classroom.
“He was told to put the Nintendo switch away,” Naydich wrote in the injunction narrative. “20 min prior to the end of class, Brandan took his switch out once again and was told to put it away. The teacher was then notified about the distraction (switch) and when questioned regarding why the switch was out in class, Brandan began to get highly irritated. He then began to call out vulgar names,” one of which is as vile as it gets when addressed to women or girls, “and got up to spit in my face. While walking out of the classroom to go to the dean’s office, I was attacked in the hallway.”
In the narrative, Naydich then refers to the sheriff’s incident report that, with the surveillance video footage, was the basis for much of the reporting about the incident in the initial days. She added: “According [to] hospital report I sustained 2 broken ribs and multiple bruises.”
The injunction document asks the petitioner to report any relevant prior incidents. Naydich reported on an incident on Aug. 29 involving Depa. “Over the course of the week Brendan’s behavioral changes were very apparent and address[ed] to multiple teachers. This particular day once the teacher left the room Brendant repeatedly called me ‘bitch’ and to ‘mind my own fucking business.’ I immediately went to tell the teacher when he started using profanity again, saying, ‘you are too fucking old, you are too fucking slow, bitch.'”
Depa is seen and heard using some of the same language in the surveillance video as he passes by Naydich after the assault, as he was led away in handcuffs and she was being tended to for her injuries.
“Another student tried to intervene,” Naydich wrote at the end of the account of the Aug. 29 incident, as Brendan began spitting, stating he was spitting because that’s ‘his way of saying fuck you!.'”
The injunction became affective last week: Circuit Judge Chris France, who handles family law in Flagler, signed it on march 9. A no-contact order was already in effect, preventing Depa from going near Naydich. He is currently being held at a juvenile jail in Jacksonville. His bond is set at $1 million. The injunction is open-ended.
Less than three weeks before the Matanzas High School incident, school board members had received a long letter from a Wadsworth Elementary teacher for 16 years, on leave at the time, who related disturbing incidents involving a young student with a history of serious behavioral issues who had brought bullets to school and stomped on them to make them go off (they did not). The teacher reported the incident but wa placated by the administration. The student got “a few days’ suspension,” the teacher wrote the board members–then went on to threaten her after his return. The administration again placated her.
“I looked through documentation (that my admin said didn’t exist),” the teacher wrote in the Feb. 2 letter, “to find EVERY teacher the student had was concerned about behavior. There is NO point in going to Human Resources, as a matter of fact, for several people, including myself, were punished harder for ‘telling.'” The teacher does not explain what she meant by “punished,” but frames her letter in accounts of the 6-year-old who shot Amy Swerner on Jan. 6, in an elementary school in Newport News, Va.
He was a time bomb waiting to go off really. Unfortunate he’s that mentally messed up, what can you do ? Take the paycheck & benefits for a job/career, one has to know when to back off and not elicit/agitate/provoke the violent response. The alternative is steer clear of the mentally ill. I choose the latter in my life, they’d have to compensate far better to take that risk. There’s really never going to be much of a reward for taking the risk. I guess if the 17 year old never goes off, that’s a reward, maybe paying it forward and making the mentally ill’s life a little better is another. Pushed him too far for an accumulation of actions and this episode of drama is just a matter of when the volcano erupts. Volcanoes do that, because they are volcanoes.
I'm a para says
These occurrences happen more frequently than the public knows. I’ve been a para for Flager for 17 years and have tried multiple times to bring this to the attention of the general public with no response save for comments to my social media posts, video and an interview. Major changes need to take place and I understand these changes take time. But this has been going on far too long and something should have been done long ago.
Ask anybody who has taught in a public school environment for any length of time–this kind of stuff goes on all the time. Many times, the teachers get in trouble for refusing to back down. They are counseled by adminsitration to just “take it.” The parents of such trouble-prone students are many times even more aggressive in their responses than the students are.
As far as Depa is concerned, I would suggest that anybody he has spit upon be tested for Hepatitis. He seems to know exactly what he is doing–including, in this case, making an accusation to the police officers on scene of “manhandling” him. He knows the buzzwords and seems to cognizant of how to play the flaws in our system.
One wonders if Depa was actually ingesting any of his prescribed medication at the time of this incident (“cheeking” medications is not unheard of in the case of non-compliant individuals.) And, if he was recieiving psychotropic medication on a regular basis, who was monitoring its effects?
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Is this a result of the historical progressive changes to integrate special needs people into the general population?
Other progressive initiatives include integrated housing, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency.
Hint, special needs people require special attention, special housing, special schooling, and lifelong support and oversight. Seldom is integration into normal life successful in the long term.
There it is. Matanzas High School was at fault for putting this large, hard to control kid in a class with people who were not capable of dealing with such a person. One fear that many people who have children with severe autism is how to deal with them when they become strong, grown adults. What in the hell were they thinking at Matanzas High, if they were thinking anything at all?
Do you think public schools have a choice as to who they have to provide an education to? Do you really think that Matanzas High School or any other public high school would readily accept a student that has been known to be a ticking time bomb? Try working in public education TODAY to see what ALL staff must deal with on a daily basis before making such a statement.
In: Whoever put that kid in that class is at fault. Period.
Deborah Coffey says
Horrifying. And, next year, that student will be allowed to own a gun…without a permit because Ron DeSantis thinks it’s a good idea….
Florida Katstradamus says
Maybe you should read the bill. There will still be background checks, plus he’ll be in prison celebrating his birthday.
Really? Ever heard of the Gun Show Loophole? Or how about a private sale? Maybe you should read the law before going off ‘half-cocked’.
You can own a gun without a permit now.
Remind me again why we shouldn’t have school choice?
BMW: Leave the kids who are not accepted behind, and take away the funds which may help kids. This is better?
It takes a village to raise a child. Society and community over privileged only, please. I bet Jesus would agree.
G A says
It would appear that some members if our school board are far more interested in banning perfectly fine books while totally ignoring the real problems this school district has. How typically far right to make much ado about nothing while completely ignoring the genuine problems in the schools
And where’s the Superintendent? Were policies followed? Doesn’t seem like it. We just skate right passed the head honcho and start blaming the school itself?
I worked in an Intermediate schooling system in PA with children who had learning disabilities and emotionally disturbed (mental issues). The environment in this special educational system worked for these children. They knew their boundaries and there were consequences if they over stepped the boundaries. The circulium for them was the same as the public school system with some exceptions. The teachers were certified to work with these children and to recognize issues and how to deal with them. And having these special needs children all together in a class brought them closer together. Not saying the system was perfect. There were problems that needed to be addressed. But generally it worked for the benefit of the children, parents and the teachers. Why can’t this form of education be introduced here?
RitaMae: Thank you, thank you, thank you! It could be, but the possibility is being drastically reduced by the current political party in charge. But again, thank you for an intelligent response!
The Geode says
I blame Trump and “systematic racism”…
As an independent I can’t help but roll my eyes at the comments on here blaming progressives when it was conservatives that initiated the no child left behind act that makes it illegal to deny access of students like this to general ed public school classes. And conservatives that have systematically worked to dismantle public schools and funnel public money into private schools, making public gen ed classes more crowded and harder to manage. And conservatives running the FL department of education that enforces regulations that made this attack possible. But sure, let’s keep blaming the progressives.
Stop the blame game and fix it. Anyone unable to behave in the schools needs to be removed. This is why so many parents are homeschooling. Their children are not subject to dangers of this kind, and the classes are not constantly interrupted with issues like this.
Schools are supposed to teach, not manage your child’s hostile and dangerous behavior.
Fix it and stop pointing fingers.
Leila: According to the CDC, about 1 in 44 kids are on the autistic spectrum. Why are you not concerned how they got that way, so damn many of them, rather than keep your kids away from these kids?