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.