The public reaction to 17-year-old Brendan Depa’s assault of Joan Naydich, his paraprofessional, at Matanzas High School last week is for the most part reassuringly analytical, balanced and compassionate.
The more strident reaction among elected officials is not. Elected officials are not only exploiting the situation. They’re exploiting Depa. They want blood. The making of an injustice is unfolding before our eyes, and at this point the public’s more measured reaction will count for nothing if it stops there. It’ll turn complicit in the miscarriage if it doesn’t pressure the elected to back off and courts to restore fairness and proportion.
State Attorney R.J. Larizza last Friday decided to charge Brendan as an adult, with a first-degree felony to boot, so Brendan is looking at up to 30 years in prison instead of a few months’ probation on his juvenile charge. Larizza had four days to think about it. Knowing Larizza and his prosecutors, I suspect this isn’t the way he wanted to go. But he saw the story circling the globe. Maybe he didn’t want to be accused of timorousness in a state whose governor lynches school board members and state attorneys who don’t toe his line. Juvenile court proceedings are all but hidden from view. Adult proceedings are not. Here was a chance for Larizza to prove his fealty to our reigning Hammurabi.
Let the court figure out Brendan’s competency. Let the John Goode Pre-Trial Detention Facility in Jacksonville deal with his autism and, starting on August 22, when he turns 18, the Flagler County jail. Let the taxpayers pick-up the tab, since he’s not about to make bail.
We are led to believe by his $1 million bond that this autistic young man who probably doesn’t know bail from Tuesday, this boy more obsessed with his game console and his group home, this student who’s been at Matanzas High School for a year and a half without drawing attention, is more dangerous than murderers and rapists.
It’s absurd and unconscionable. But it’s not an exaggeration. Damari Barnes, the youth accused in the shooting death of Jamey Bennett near Matanzas a year ago, is being held on $500,000 bond. Victor Williams, the 40-year-old man who worked with autistic kids and was arrested on a charge of raping a 16 year old, was held on $108,000 bond, which he posted until his conviction. Kwentell Moultrie was out on $100,000 bond after being charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, at least until he was re-arrested on a murder charge. I could add to this list.
Barnes, Williams and Moultrie didn’t make the news in L.A., London, and Sydney. And Tallahassee. Brendan did. Of course he’s not more dangerous than the others. But he’s now a commodity, not a human being. He’s a pretext, an opportunity, an example to be made of. He doesn’t count.
I expected some of the new school board members to go medieval on Brendan. Two of them devour Deuteronomy for breakfast. I did not expect the rest of them to join in the gluttony. But barely a day after the attack was first reported, before the district had time to conduct its own investigation into what is obviously an exceptionally unusual incident, before the victim could even be debriefed about it all, the school board went into knee-jerk convulsions.
The second School Board member Christy Chong called for a discussion on alternative schools, the rest signed on, as if standing up one of these splendid little concentration camps the district wisely did away with a few years ago would take a workshop, a work order to the facilities department and a couple of transfers of teachers on somebody’s shit list. Doesn’t matter whether it’s actually needed or not. Doesn’t matter if there are a zillion alternatives to alternative schools, as there weren’t 10 years ago. Doesn’t matter if Brendan’s case is an aberration (in the atypical, not the Parkview Church, sense of the word). Doesn’t matter whether an alternative school could even accommodate a student like Brendan without a mountain of expenses and liability risks.
Public schools’ responsibilities with special education students can’t be outsourced. That’s why charter schools and private schools can get away with their self-segregated enrollments. They’re not under the same constraints. So it’s not as simple as warehousing all the supposed trouble-makers in a campus ghetto. But Chong, so silent for so many months, is now hearing “a constant complaint across the campuses” about trouble in schools. The undocumented gossip is good enough for her, and apparently good enough for the rest of the board, to start talking about reviving an outdated model at huge expense. I’m surprised one of the board members didn’t call for bringing back whipping children. That may not be far off, judging from the smacking sounds from Brevard.
Chong is new to the board. She can’t be blamed for double standards. Not until after this paragraph ends. We now know that another profoundly autistic student at Flagler Palm Coast High School years ago broke the arm of his teacher and assaulted another autistic child, leaving her bruised. He was never disciplined nor transferred to the alternative school, which was still open at the time. Why? Because his parents were prominent. Because they were take-no-prisoner advocates for their child, as any parent ought to be. Because they insisted he be treated according to Exceptional Student Education laws and regulations. Because they knew their parental rights before it became a hollow fad on Hammurabi’s electoral slates. Because the school was terrified of a lawsuit, and those parents could pay for it. Because the child was white. And because the incident was not on camera or on a sheriff’s blast list.
Unluckily for Brendan, he doesn’t check any of those boxes. He doesn’t count.
Meanwhile Chong, even as she was calling Brendan’s behavior “not okay,” found a “Safe Space” sign at Matanzas unacceptable. Read that line again, because in this context it takes some suspension of disbelief: A Safe Space sign. Unacceptable. She thinks safe spaces are gay. Literally. The rainbow colors caught her attention. So the sign should be banned. The district agrees. This school board grows irony like kudzu and doesn’t know it.
The official handling of the Depa case mirrors the way Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey in late November choreographed a video selfie with the state attorney, the new chair of the school board and a “business representative” at his back, all of them standing in a visual gauntlet of barbed wire at the Brevard county jail.
Ivey was wistful for the days when “the clowns who continually disrupt our classrooms” could fear having “the cheeks of their ass torn off.” That’s the language and the location Ivey chose to showcase his crossing of the Rubicon, as it is now accepted practice in Florida, from the governor on down, that goons who threaten violence even as they decry it, and who have no business in education, will use use demagoguery backed by zero evidence to set education policy. How different Ivey’s posturing about these “clowns” is from Iranian Mullah’s tearing the cheeks off the asses of women and girls who don’t wear the veil is a matter of degrees.
As are some of the comments that couldn’t be published on this site in response to the Matanzas incident, at least not without condemnation, comments that show what kind of neighbors we have living among us, like this: “It makes me wanna vomit how the majority of people on here think that there is some worth in keeping these monsters around in our society. The sooner you exterminate these beasts, the better life is for the rest of us.”
Ivey and the rest of them aren’t saying anything much different. They’re just polishing off their grandaddies’ dog whistles to do it so Google doesn’t flag their videos as “dangerous or derogatory content.”
There is solace only in the public reaction at large, thank you Flagler. Of course there are vengeful comments. But if 500-some comments to date are an indication (on FlaglerLive platforms, anyway), the public is for the most part reasonable, often compassionate, rich in personal and professional experiences that inform the debate. It managed to balance sympathy and generosity for Naydich with compassion for Brendan Depa, reserving judgment about his sole responsibility. It takes account of his special needs status, the area’s lack of mental health, the need for alternative placements, though not necessarily an alternative school. We should be horrified. We should also be humane.
It’s been a reasonable debate on a difficult issue that has no single answer, certainly not in a state where mental health is not a priority and where the same people who howl at the non-existent defunding of police (like our own Paul Renner, the House speaker) have no problem authoring the largest effort to defund public schools to date as they turn around and blame schools for allowing something like last week’s incident to happen. It’s been the kind of reasonable debate the school board should be having, and the state attorney should be deferring to juvenile court, if that.
Where’s Brendan in all this? He’s at that juvenile jail in Jacksonville, god knows under what circumstances and in what state of mind, awaiting his March 6 arraignment here. He is no longer Brendan. He doesn’t count. He is booking number: 23-486.
Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here. A shorter version of this piece is airing Friday on WNZF.
Did I read that someone here thinks a few
Months probation is fair!!!! are you nuts!!! These liberal —Let-the-criminal-go types are what has destroyed cities like NYC and Chicago. If you want that deadly lifestyle, I suggest you consider moving north where the Marxists live!
Im Liberal and I don’t think he should be let go lol geesh
I’m liberal as well and hope he is locked up for 30 years. Just because I’m liberal and have sympathy for all sides and realize that there is complexity to Dema’s actions, doesn’t mean I want him walking around free to kill my daughter or mother the next time he gets upset.
I am surprised no one in Flagler County hasn’t suggested either of the two traditional “Old Florida” solutions—lynching or lobotomy.
Only you, JimBob, only you.
Stan H. Dixon says
It is truly sad that you would dare to think “Old Florida” solutions would be current solutions. This kid has serious problems. The “system” has passed him on. He almost beat to death the ONE person in the class dedicated to him, his personal assistant. He also said he would kill her when he gets out. My suggestion, buy a gun and learn how to use it… and hope you never need to.
The dude says
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a LOT of crime and depravity right here. A LOT.
I’ve had more FBI raids, active shooters barricaded in thier houses, and crimes of just the most depraved nature within a 5 mile radius of my house here, than I had over the span of 40 some odd years up in Atlanta. It’s not even close.
Here, I won’t let my daughter walk out into our front yard alone…
And the entire county, and all the cities contained within, are run by MAGA. All of it.
So maybe all you MAGAts need to sweep your own front porch, before you go complaining about everybody else’s?
Edward Stark says
ROFL! Are you comparing Flagler County to Atlanta or just the “suburban enclave” you lived in? If this one case is your argument to the DOZENS of shootings that happen on a weekly basis in Atlanta you’ve lost your mind…
The dude says
I felt safer there for forty years, than I do here for the last four.
Speaking of enclaves… there weren’t many gated communities there, with population numbers dwarfing the population numbers here, yet you all love your gated communities. If it’s so much safer here, why do you feel the overwhelming need to hide behind gates here???
Robert J. Fortier says
I believe it would not be difficult for you to to show proof that most of your comments are determined by emotions, politics, and not facts.
Calling you neighbors “MAGATS” is getting old, and far from trying to get along.
There are are unreasonable people on both sides of the isle…I just prefer sticking with those that are reasonable.
Thats funny. You’re delusional, actually saying Atlanta is safer than Palm Coast!!! Like the other comment said, then you werent actually in Atlanta. Just close to. Please stop it.
The dude says
Over 40 years. Not a single instance of SWAT cordoning off my street.
4 years here, 2-3 times.
40 years not a single drive by shooting within 5-10 miles of my house, 4 years more than 4.
40 years no psychiatric holds for any of my neighbors. Here more than one in 4 years.
Don’t even get me started on the depravity in this city… a city and county with a population smaller than a single zip code in the Atlanta metro area.
You MAGAs keep hiding behind your gates and telling yourselves there’s no crime here, I have children to worry about, I’ll live in reality.
Justice T Booker says
That criminal needs to be put in jail for a long time. Tired of idiots making excuses for criminals.
Seth Pittman says
I’m a liberal but certainly not a brainwashed republican with no sense of reality.
This special needs person should be removed from society for the duration of his natural life. The horrific violence he directed at another human being should be seen for what it is and not minimized or excused due to “special needs”. Anyone who displays this type of a violent nature should be permanently removed from society.
“Dog whistles” trope aside, I think the legal system is trying to weigh the threat to the community. You seem to think they are overreacting. Fair enough perspective. However, looking at previous horrific crimes in this state and this nation, it becomes clear that nearly all those committing those crimes were on the ‘radar’ of authorities to little effect — until the unthinkable happened.
I will not comment on the circumstance involved in this situation. I have my own personal opinions which as established on having a daughter as a teacher and a nephew on the autism spectrum. I kind of get. I will state however, that even this young man needs an advocate. The court can assign an advocate to him to represent him not only in court but also with his court assigned attorney. Someone must speak for the speechless.
Concerned Parent says
Exactly this. We have a child on the spectrum at one of the high schools here and having moved here from another FL county, we were pretty shocked to see how ill-equipped the schools are here to deal with special and high needs students. Does the kids deserve to be removed from public school? Yes. Does he deserve thirty years in prison? Absolutely not. There has to be an alternative for rehabilitation with either ABA and executive functioning measures put into place for people with disabilities that doesn’t involve our very faulty and inept criminal justice system.
Aracelis Figueroa says
Billy bickford says
Might as well give him a trophy. You guys with the spectrum need to go ahead and be this guys teachers aide…. Then you might sing a different tune
This young man has already “graduated” from one “Intensive Juvenile Diversionary Program” that he was assigned to after three assaults he committed in 2019.
He apparently needs a more restrictive environment and time is running out–if it hasn’t legally run out already.
Oh wow did not know this. He had his chances then. My sister is severely autistic. If she did something like this I would expect for her to have to own up to the consequences.
Father of Daughter says
Anyone who thinks this guy should get a slap on the wrist just because he’s special needs …. Should Adopt Him.
It’s always easy to move 2 thumbs and let someone else take care of the problem.
Thurston Howell says
My exact thoughts!
christine robinson says
I agree. I applaud Pierre Tristam for writing this. Been sharing all over the story on Twitter. I’ve gotten vile comments from ppl who don’t know anything about autism. All of us need to write DeSantis and this State Attorney. We all need to stand up for Brendan. No one else has or will. He’s been failed from family to the court, school, to aide. No one has mentioned either that the aide says not she didn’t take his game .Why? Who’s lying the autistic child who says that is what happened or an aide that does not suppose to discipline a special needs child/autistic by LAW. That job falls to the teacher. Not the aide. Someone trying to save their ass and other’s asses/job. They know what happened is against the law to allow an paraprofessional/aide discipline the child. No clsssroom video/audio either has been released. Why not? PPl trying to cover up and lying on this poor child to cover their asses. Disgusting!
This the fully grown “child” would have beat this aide to death if he wasn’t stopped. If you haven’t seen the recording of what happened, you should (yes, is has been released). Regardless of what “you” think, or whatever “vile comments” you have received, his actions are not acceptable at any level. What is “disgusting” is you trying the shuffle the blame on the teacher or aide.
Psychopathy is also a disability. It’s called ODD in children and APD in adults. If a 17 year old psychopath kills your mom I guess it’s ok because he has a disability and doesnt know better. You will be understanding when he gives your mother life long brain injury and beats her unconciousness body to death (lest someone intervenes) because he is the victim. Sorry, this 17 year old has a track record of violence and is a danger to society. If it were my mother in that video I would expect no less than 30 years in prison for this brutal attack.
ODD is not even close to psychopathy. You are probably confusing that with conduct disorder.
My sister is autistic. Severely. If she did this I would expect her to go to jail. If you are so out of control you can’t be around people he shouldn’t have even been in school where he could hurt people. Not only that, after 3 assaults in 2019 he went through a diversionary program already. He had his chances.
Rory Hines says
It was the teacher who threatened to take away his gaming device not the aid. And I don’t care what happened in the classroom he beat that woman who was 200 lbs lighter than him nearly to death. Plus he has 3 other assaults that he committed in 2019 where he got only a slap on the wrist. Maybe next time it will be your mother on the ground being beaten nearly to death. Wonder how you will be feeling about this then.
Delories Hall says
I agree with you
All you who think this kid needs compassion….what if no one was there to pull him off that woman? He even told her he was coming back to kill her. Where is your compassion for her? She works another part time job and someone there told me she’s still scared to death.
Aracelis Figueroa says
DeSantis goes after Monique Worrell, elected state attorney, over releasing the man who shot two people. The problem with that is her office followed the law. But, it’s a great way to stir up the base. This is now the Republican playbook to stir things up politically, rather than to follow the rule of law. If a law is inadequate, change it! But that is not what the Republicans are doing now. One of the many rules that *conservatives* have believed in, they believe in no more, especially if it gets them attention and political points. Republicans are doing a 180 on their own beliefs.
Pierre Tristam is correct when he states that this kid doesn’t matter. What matters is for DeSantis, and his kind, to get people upset and scream “yeah, let’s get the bastards!” when they don’t even know the law, or take into consideration that it is an autistic child.
The Republican Party is no longer the party of conservatives. It’s politicians are extremely irresponsible today. These two examples, I’ve put here, are definitely problems, but using these scenarios for the sake of personal benefit is egregious behavior, and make the problems worse.
Concerned Parent says
Response rant: That’s just it though- the Republicans just use these type of things to perpetrate the lie that progressives don’t care about crime or violence but rather revel in it. Not naming names, but we have one School Board member who made a spectacle about getting a DeSantis endorsement and from what I’ve seen hasn’t done squat for the ESE kids they kept touting during their campaign. We hear all about “law and order”, but what exactly are they doing to give some of the really troubled students resources OUTSIDE of the classroom because that’s a very real need? This kid lived in a group home apparently – was he receiving services, therapy, tutoring even? What are they doing to give teachers the resources they need to not only be better equipped to deal with students like this, but also incentivize more workers to the schools so this type of thing doesn’t have to happen? (They are all terribly understaffed. Look at all the people quitting – a local elementary and middle school come to mind.) It just blows my mind that as parents we’re getting a crap ton of lip service and yet they do NOTHING but worry about books they feel kids shouldn’t be reading or calling slaves “contract employees” in history textbooks. I’m getting ready to leave the state altogether because my now very high property taxes don’t mean jack for any of my kids education apparently! (Let’s not forget that a real problem like high taxes and insurance-not schoolbooks- is completely being ignored by the GOP leaders you Boomers voted for.) DeSantis will fire every SA he thinks he can get replace with one of his cronies because hey, maybe they’ll help him throw the next election. I’m so over it. Thank you all for coming to my TED talk.
You are delusional. This 6’6 has already been in trouble beating up others! Get a fan grip blaming Republicans instead of this manchild!
He’s autistic you heartless wretch.
Just about Everyone is autistic according to modern ” doctors”. This is more than an autistim problem. Learning disabilities are considered autism now. Quit making excuses.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
Is he confirmed to be autistic? I am asking that question with all sincerity. No one with precise information seems to have come forward to state what his “special needs” are. Apparently his record in Hillsborough shows that he could not control his rage and that he ended up being charged three times for physical battery. He has been described as “behaviorally disabled,” but that is not the same as autistic. Maybe one can exist with the other, but in Depa’s case, who knows? Someone knows the real story about Brendan Depa but so far they’ve kept tight-lipped about it. It would help for the community to know the facts.
Jessica White Leon says
I completely disagree! It’s sad that Pierre would choose to use the phrase “He doesn’t count.” First of all, EVERY student counts! If you’re serving in education, it’s because you want to make a positive difference for the students. In this case, you have professionals who have served him for years especially his para who made sure he had everything he needed and advocated for him for 2.5 years. More than any of us will ever know I’m sure!
Words are power and as much as I’m heartbroken over this situation, those of us living it and supporting the victim would never use those terms.
This situation isn’t about politics! It’s about how life has changed forever for MANY because of one individual’s actions!
So hlp me I got a cavity reading this. Never knew what a victim Depa really was.
Sounds as if you’d prefer to see the Teacher’s Aide charged instead.
Concerned Citizen says
I’m curious as to what your answer is.
You seem more sympathetic towards Depa than you do the Para Professional who was beat unconscious. And will likely have long lasting effects. I’m pretty sure she didn’t ask for any of that.
I myself am trying to withhold judgement on Depa. I want confirmed documented evidence of is mental health status. Before I am willing to release him of responsibility. I myself was career Law Enforcement and we have a nephew who is autistic. I understand the struggle with mental health. But let’s let that be confirmed first. Otherwise it’s a student who had a bad day being reprimanded. And tried to murder someone while doing their job.
And as far as responsibility will FL lean on this case to hold those responsible that saw Ms.Naydich nearly murdered? If we are holding folks accountable there is a long list.
This article is pure apologists drivel. This juvenile is ODD and not autistic. He can’t be diagnosed sociopath until he’s 18. He already has three arrests for assault. I will bet the author a million dollars once released he will eventually murder someone. It would be better he be taken out of society permanently
Well said sad but true
James Mejuto says
To Pierre: While I disagree with a lot you wrote, I think you’ve gone-on ranting, prematurely without any regard to the medical
and mental condition of the victim, Joan Naydich. Looking at the tape that terrible afternoon, I would not have
compassion for Brendan Depa if he had attacked and nearly killed my wife or a member of my family.
I think you have jumped-the-gun before all the facts. You should be more careful.
Loleina Apo says
Its “bleeding hearts” like the author of this ridiculous piece of pathetic journalism that has resulted in the deaths of so many innocent human beings. Autistic or not, this kid is extremely dangerous and needs to be locked up. He was obviously never taught respect by his parents or he would not be attacking anyone. He needed his butt blistered a few times. Time out in the corner “does’t cut it” Go sing your pathetic song in other parts of the word and see if this kid would have been shot on site or hung in the public square. Not too many people are obtuse enough to buy your sorry whine of miscarriage of justice.
Russell A Smith says
Depa belongs in Prison. He is violent and is a Habitual Offender. He should never be allowed back in Public School again. He is too dangerous to be in the General Population of a school setting. My heart goes out to the Para Professional that he almost killed. That will be next if he is not dealt with harshly.
Don't Tread on Me says
Well Pierre….. I seriously hope that YOUR family members never get beaten up so badly they nearly die. All because of CRIMINAL THUG PUNK who knows how to play the system. If that was my family member who took that beaten, I would be waiting outside the jail for the CRIMINAL’S release. Then release KARMA on him. This country is falling apart because of CRIME. Time Americans take action to STOP IT .
don miller says
He was trying to kill her and it was on film. He is too dangerous to be let out in society . Hence the giant bond. Now the local state atty will have to wait until desantis requests the records and handling of depa’s previous infractions to determine whether they were ever handled in a manner that might not have led to this. Same thing for the DA in orlando with the pine hills shooting. Soft on crimers sympathizers will have to pay now. What to do? Make his bond low enuff so an attempted murderer gets another chance to attempt to kill someone else over a nintendo switch while awaiting trial for another attempt. He was old enough and certainly big enuff to know better. Lori Lightfoot found out soft on crime doesn’t pay. I am on perpetual comment review here. At least ny comments prove I am reading Flagler Live.
ANDREW BILINSKI says
Sorry libs and progressives, I do not agree. You would have a different opinion if YOUR kid went to the hospital with a broken arm, coma or worse!
Not one word in the article about the responsibilities of the parents of these special needs “thugs”.
Vet Teacher says
Careful where you’re throwing those stones, Andrew. I’m a Christian liberal Democrat, and I certainly don’t condone violence in schools or anywhere else. Put the blame where it belongs, sir.
I would really love to know how Depa even ended up in Flagler County. He apparently came here from Hillsborough County where he had already racked up three assaults. His mother is reported to be an Occupational Therapist and you would think she would have some knowledge of resources and how to go about obtaining them–limited though they may be.
Autism is not a “sudden onset” disorder. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be a case of someone who just cycled through system, being handed off from doctor to doctor, facility to facility, getting inconsistent (if any) viable long-term treatment resulting from any kind of in-depth evaluation process.
It sort of sounds like Depa ended up in school unprepared to handle what amounted to “a ticking time bomb”, who was now on the shaky receiving end of an “aging out” “three hots and a cot” situation.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
A lot of people are asking the same question, ASF. How did Depa end up here in Flagler County, and why are taxpayers having to foot the bill for a habitually violent, very dangerous individual? Autism or no autism, if he can’t control himself, and his way of dealing with problems is using his size, weight and strength to inflict grievous bodily harm, he does not belong in a regular high school. Period.
Doesn’t belong in school? How about doesn’t belong in the general public?
Did he have these behaviors in his school in Hillsborough County?
Rory Hines says
Yes he did. 3 prior assaults in 2019 which he got a slap on the wrist for.
“.. Ivey was wistful for the days when “the clowns who continually disrupt our classrooms” could fear having “the cheeks of their ass torn off. …”
Children shouldn’t be subjected to corporal punishment in schools, public or private (and anywhere else for that matter) period.
Just too many people seem to enjoy that sort of thing… end of story.
Just my opinion.
Aracelis Figueroa says
And that is what is wrong with this country….well that and greed
Are you serious….a few months probation. Tell me what happens the next time someone takes a toy away from him ……..does he again act violently and perhaps this time kill someone. Sorry he has behavioral issues but more then a slap on the wrist is warranted. Would your opinion and thoughts be different if that were a member of your family being thrown on the ground and kicked and beaten? Give that some thought.
Some special needs students can be dangerous, they can’t control themselves, especially for students on the spectrum. The student should’ve been in a program in a school equipped to handle his specific needs, with people trained to help him.
Obviously he had a history of violence, I wonder if his paraprofessional knew that? Paras do not make the kind of money they should to do such complex jobs, they work hard and deserve appropriate compensation for their time and experience. This is hardly the first time a school employee has been injured by a student, and if this kid didn’t have special needs this would be a different conversation.
I suppose this kind of situation and reaction would’ve happened somewhere with somebody, so these issues do need to be addressed, but having an autistic student go to prison for decades really reflects the ignorance of the law with this population. He needs help, not a prison sentence, and should be in a situation where the people around him are safe.
Probation wouldn’t do much either, the approach to this issue shouldn’t be entirely punitive to a student who does not appear to be in control of his facilities. Other options need to be explored, and discussed reasonably without punching each other in the head regarding liberal or conservative politics, although the trend for ‘spare the rod spoil the child’ is certainly reflected in these reactions.
Land of no turn signals says says
He can get all his “special needs addressed” in prison.
J. Red06712 says
You know his special needs will not be addressed in jail. He will be abused more than ever. Now does he need special help. That is a yes. I do feel for the assistant who was beat up by this man. My question to her was why did she take away his gaming toy? This should of been handled by a person who understood this persons problems instead of not giving back what was his but she did not want him to have. She should of gone to a higher level just to make sure she was doing what was right by this specific student.
don miller says
you are assuming she did not handle the toy situation as well as anyone else would, did not know his potential for violence, not trained and did not consider anything, even though she spends every day with him. Amazingly poor attempt at blame the victim.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Mike Crichton says
When she regained consciousness, the victim said that she _hadn’t_ taken his toy away that day. Which means that he was either A) fixated on some point in the past when she had, or B) completely delusional. Tell me, which of these possibilities is an argument for him NOT being dangerous?
She is now claiming that she did not, in fact, “take away” his device. I think people should wait until all the facts are out. There are still some which are in dispute.
Unfortunately, our prisons have become De Facto Mental Institutions. And the medical/treatment serivces inside them are pretty minimal.
If this young man is a Sociopath rather than an Autistic individual, he will probably do fairly well while incarcerated. If he is truly Autistic, he will decompensate.
concerned observer says
What a shame it is that this happens more than it is reported because the school’s admin hide it. Same identical thing happened to a parapro at Buddy Taylor in November 2021 and not a word about it on any local media much less the national news. After being released from the hospital and recovering from her concussion, the parapro returned to Buddy Taylor, where the student that attacked her was already back from his “one day stay at home and watch t.v. punishment”. I still do not know why the Flagler County School Resource Officer did not file charges after the victim stated she wanted charges filed. Might be because the principal said the school did not want charges filed against the poor emotionally challenged young man who simply can not control himself. School Admin should not be allowed to over rule the school staff who are the victims and I would think Sheriff Staley would correct this. This student was another transfer violent kid with a bunch of labels and excuses on why he could not control himself from attacking the $15.00 an hour employee. It will be an interesting community conversation when Republicans put guns in all school employee’s hands to watch how the game plays out when a gun toting staff member is attacked and “fears for their life” and shoots some “poor unarmed child with emotional behavior issues”. Unfortunately that day will happen soon. If not in Flagler, somewhere in the United States.
Please know that teachers and school staff members are verbally assaulted every day by students and parents. They are physically battered (not as bad as this incident or the one I shared) monthly, it is not reported as it is just accepted by the school superintendent (and the school board members who make the policies) as the cost of following federal law and the school superintendent making sure the suspension numbers are low and racially balanced. Hopefully, there will be a new person managing the school system here soon.
I wish every community member knew a teacher or school staff member to understand what a shitshow the system has become. I do not know how children learn anything in this system. I wish the school teachers and staff wore body cams and the footage was all public records.
Vet Teacher says
It’s interesting to me how political this conversation has become simply because the incident happened in a school. If a large young man brutally assaulted a woman on the street and had three prior assault charges, there’s no question what the outcome would be. And please let’s stop saying “alleged assault.” He beat the crap out of her on camera – there’s no pretense of innocence left, even if he is only 17 years of age.
The question about the most “appropriate environment” for this child’s education is a moot point. The TA’s training or lack thereof is somewhat irrelevent in the face of that level of violence. His mental health is not an excuse for his crime- one could argue that generally every person who commits a violent crime is mentally unstable. Let the judge determine the most reasonable punishment. But I have to say that I have taught in a public school for the last 29 years, and even though I’ve had two rounds of active shooter training, I’m not confident I could stop a kid from shooting me. I don’t think school administrators could prepare anyone for the attack this poor woman suffered. The only way forward is to stop blaming the schools for all of society’s ills and parents’ shortcomings, and start holding people (even minors) accountable for their actions.
Yes! Well said and I agree. I am a retired educator from Flagler County. I’ve been chased around a classroom, had chairs thrown at me and death threats from ESE students.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Very reasonable way to react to this situation.
I was once young also…did some bad things, got punished by the system, then punished severely by my parents.
If one does not believe that they take some responsibility for the actions of those they brought into this world, they should not reproduce.
Bottom line, this is a case of an provoked vicious criminal attack. Although it might be barely appropriate to label it as an “alleged crime” as the accused has not yet been convicted, the assault/attack is without doubt.
Then there is the attempt to excuse the attacker because of his mental health disability. Research has consistently found that most people who are mentally ill are not violent. Brendan Depa has shown himself to be violent. As a somewhat liberal, I am all for having humane prisons in which those who are incarcerated are treated humanly, educated, and receive mental health treatment.
At the same time, I am practical. Those who are a dangerous to society (me, my family, my neighbors) need to be locked up. Although a court has not yet determined this, Mr. Depa appears to be such a danger.
Michael Johnson says
A miscarriage of Justice. That is a joke. Did the author of the article know that he already got probation for 3 charges of battery prior to this incident. Pierre thinks he should get a few months of probation? Hey Pierre they already tried that 3 times and it didn’t work. A poor teachers assistant could have died or could have been paralyzed because of people like you want to give people who have proven time and again they are indifferent to human life. They said he is special needs which doesn’t mean he’s autistic. He could have mild attention deficit disorder for all you know. That’s for a court to decide. They will take into consideration his mental condition and any special needs he may or not have. Maybe they’ll decide he’s not competent to stand trial but he should not be among the public. He’s clearly a violent individual.This will happen again. But Pierre maybe your right, I’ll tell you what give him a 5th chance at probation and send him to school with your kids and tell me how you feel. You really want to make him the victim when that teachers aide was in the icu while doing a job no one will want to do because of incidents like this.
C’mon man says
He may be partially autistic but guaranteed he knows that beating an unconscious person is wrong.
The dude says
This kid needs to go to jail for life…
It’s not like he was a young, white, male with an unhealthy love for guns publishing white power manifestos online or anything… just a young autistic black man child, with limited understanding , anger management issues, and no one to help him learn how to work through any of it.
Clearly he needs to face the consequences for his actions here, but a public lynching serves no one but the angry old MAGAts, who will give that young white male publishing white power manifestos all the benefit of the doubt, howling for blood.
Robert Joseph Fortier says
Ummm…I think you are responding to the wrong story. “MAGAts” ?
“Howling for blood”?
Trump lost, Biden won, try to stay with the story in the article.
Pretty typical. Lots of concern for the violent offender & none whatsoever for the victim!! It’s funny also how many people’s comments here start with..the republicans.. or..Ron DeSantis..This has nothing to do with politics…can we just calm down with that garbage. Your box is pretty small if that’s your only filter for life..Any articles about the victims well being?? This person almost killed a teacher over a game…he has a history of poor behavior already established. Special needs or not, he is dangerous regardless of some people’s feelings or virtues.
The teacher aide and the school need to be investigated. This school has a bad track record of teachers abusing special needs kids. Not long ago a gym coach was fired for abuse on a special needs. His name was Robert Ripley. Now we have a teachers aide who has mishandled a special needs student and caused all this trouble.
Mary Fusco says
Mark 1, exactly how did she mishandle him? She stated she did not take the game from him. The real question is where was the game while she was being knocked unconscious and kicked and spit on? No one seems to address this. Either he still had the game or she was holding it when he jumped her from behind as she was walking away. I’ll wait.
Mike Crichton says
If he is truly unable to control himself, that makes him MORE dangerous than someone who deliberately chooses violence, not less. Let him play his Nintendo in a mental institution, until such point as he is no longer a threat to himself or others.
I look at some of these stupid commentator rationalizations and can see that people will believe what they want to believe.
These half-wits that want to throw an autistic minor in prison don’t realize what a crippling disability autism can be.
If only they could live in Brendan’s head for a day or two…
I do sympathize with the aide who was attacked but she should have known better than to grab Brendan’s toy.
There, I said it! ”
If you look at the video, the aide didn’t exactly demonstrate a gentle touch, which is what the situation called for.
I am sorry that so many people cannot seem to come to terms with that.
We live in an age where “poop” toys and tee shirts are commonly worn and wonder just how dumb ald low American society has to stoop to before our country collapses. Hate and stupidity seem to bond idiots together—have you noticed?
AND THEY VOTE.
What now, Mein Kampf as a manual for living life?
One day if you attain old age and its infirmities, you may end up in a care facility, and see how helpless you are.
That is when I hope that you reap the whirlwind!
Consider it your comeuppance when you are left in your own filth due to uncaring and hateful people.
Maybe then, you can be prosecuted for smelling like the aforementioned “poop.”
“Why are they so mean to me,” you’ll wonder…
But just look in the mirror, for you are them.
The dude says
This flag flies on the street where I walk with my daughter to the school bus. It can also be found flying on trucks driving around town. Along with bumper stickers and such.
So spare us your sanctimonious BS.
Clean up your own damn yard before you come complaining about mine.
I just finished cleaning up my yard as you suggested and decided to take a break and catch up with Flaglerlive.
So you take offense like I do when idiots fly disgusting flags for all children to see…
You are so right to be offended. Kudos!
Pat yourself on the back, for you sir, have some sense of decency, which is strangely incongruent with your retort.
Despite the foregoing friendly tone of my response, know that I would view your stamp of approval as an indictment
upon my persona, so please accept my thanks, Dude. Thanks for the “sanctimonious” reference.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine.
But I digress, Dude. It isn’t always so glaringly obvious when a comment of mine strikes a nerve.
The commenters here know who they are, apparently, you do too.
Like the ancient Greek aphorism goes: “Know thyself.” And you do! Yay!
Thank you for the laughs.
May it rain marshmallows upon you…
Thank you for saying this. What the vast majority of these keyboard psychiatrists do not understand is that no amount of parental guidance, butt whooping, incarceration or other torture can realign a head that is full of demons. Special needs folks be they young or old need special education and assistance; they need compassion, not more disdain and violence. To place a kid like this in the general population of a prison would be a death sentence. I agree that this young man had no place in a mainstream situation but that is where he ended up for lack of available treatment options.
What happened to the publicly available mental health facilities we had in the past? They have been shuttered and replaced with private, for-profit facilities. Who did this? Those same wonderful folks who want to privatize every function of government, AKA the Republican Party. All sounds good in hype and in the red meat for the base but in truth it has a tremendous cost. In Florida alone it is estimated that 21% of our population has some form of mental illness and the really sad part is that 50% of them cannot afford the insurance that ‘might’ get them entry into one of those private treatment clubs. So as a society what do we do with these folks who cannot afford the necessary treatment? We ignore them, we ‘mainstream’ the kids, we kick them to the curb at every opportunity, we gamble that the ticking time bomb in their heads will not explode. When it does, we demand ‘justice’ and toss them in prison to rot; we never consider for one second that we created the problem.
How could any of you “normal” folks not understand that when you place an individual who does not understand the world, much less right from wrong, into a mainstream school, you are asking for incidents such as this TA being attacked. It was only a matter of time. The blame rests squarely on your shoulders for not supporting the need for publicly available mental health facilities.
To all you armchair shrinks, GET A GRIP. The lack of available care was created by the party of smaller government, less regulation and greed; you need to fix it. This problem affects every one of us and until we realize that, it will only get worse.
I appreciate you!
Mike Crichton says
“If you look at the video, the aide didn’t exactly demonstrate a gentle touch…”
LOLwhut? The video posted on this site starts with him running up behind her, and she barely has time to raise her hands before getting knocked down. How, prey tell, could she possibly have been “gentler”? Not resist at all?
As for the supposed nintendo-taking, she claims it didn’t happen. In any case, there doesn’t seem to be any publicly available video depicting any earlier interactions. If you have access to such video, please post the link. Otherwise, take your victim-blaming and condescension elsewhere.
Vet Teacher says
My question is – so what if she had taken the toy from Brendan? She says she didn’t, but I routinely take cell phones away from kids who know perfectly well they aren’t allowed to have them out in class. If I get attacked, is it my fault for doing my job and enforcing a school rule?
Also, I think some of these commentors need to brush up on what “autism” behaviors typically look like. While emotional outbursts may happen, the violence of Brendan’s actions is certainly not the norm. Brendan’s not the victim here. He’s the criminal, and his diagnosis should not exempt him from responsibilty for his actions.
Well, I can tell you that I am extremely disappointed in the people who live here.
Instead of putting the blame where it should be, it’s placed on an individual with a mental disability. Ask yourself, why is a 6’6″ kid placed in a situation with people who cannot handle him? Why is a para in charge of this very large, disturbed kid who doesn’t relate to the world around him? What training does the para and the teacher have to handle such a kid? Who was present who was able to restrain him? Did anyone think ahead? Clearly, not. This is incredibly bad planning on the part of the people in charge of this school system.
I am truly sorry the woman took such a bad beating, and I wish it had never happened. It is, however, the fault of the system who created this scenario. But those of you who love the “lock ’em up” war cry, apparently haven’t thought ahead either. So, you blame the kid, you blame the author and you blame the bleeding heart liberals, and don’t say boo about the system that harbored this ridiculous recipe for disaster. For those of you criticizing that this is becoming political, yes, it is when politicians use this overgrown “black” child (yeah, the black is emphasized) to stir YOU up for their political, personal gain.
This child should never been placed in a setting where the adults involved could not handle him. That was an incredibly stupid mistake by *professional adults.* Put the blame where it belongs.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
The “people who live here,” as you put it, did not ask for the 6 foot 6 inch tall gift from Hillsborough County. Did that occur to you?
Comment of the year, you make it seem like the teenager with no control of where he lives asked to be in Flagler county. I usually dont comment on these things but this comment REALLY stood out to me. My goodness where do I live lol
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
Since you don’t seem to know “where [you] live,” let me inform you. You live in a county where we care a lot more about the welfare of a defenseless victim who was attacked from behind and viciously beaten nearly to death than we care about the brute who “allegedly” assaulted her. That does not mean we don’t have empathy for his mental or emotional issue; we just have our priorities. You also live in a county whose taxpayers deserve to know why the attacker ended up in this county, and at whose expense, when he already had multiple battery charges against him. Did Hillsborough County — a much wealthier place than Flagler — wash their hands of him because they had no services to offer him or because they just plain didn’t want a person that dangerous in their schools? Did they do a deal (ie., pay off) Flagler County to take him? Or was it a state-ordered or privately organized deal? And what, exactly, are the “alleged” attacker’s “special needs?” These are all questions that Flagler County’s taxpayers, and citizens in general, have a right to know. I hope this answers your question regarding “where [you] live.”
So here’s your priority summed up: A horse owner puts your kid on the back of a horse, this horse does not have the same understanding of what’s happening that the average person does. The horse bucks off your kid, and your kid breaks his arm. You, and an angry mob, shoot the horse. The horse owner goes home.
Yet another pithy reply that deserves to be included in Laurel’s Greatest Hits!
You never disappoint. Thank you…
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
That is a ridiculous analogy.
I have compassion for Brendan because of his disability and any factors in his childhood that would lead to such violence. However, I am also concerned that this young man presents a real danger to other people. Alternative schools are far from ideal, but with funding, support and good educational leadership, such a school can provide students more attention and resources and aid the student’s development. It is not rational that Brendan would be permitted to attend a public high school after he had been arrested three times for assault. Yes, Brendan certainly has the right to an education and a right not to be isolated, but his rights should not supercede the right of other students, teachers and staff to be safe at school. Had other staff not gotten to him in time, he very well could have killed this woman. Although he has a disability, he may be able to understand that this behavior is wrong. We can’t know how much control he has over his rage impulses – he may have more control than his supporters imagine. We can’t really know. As he was lead away by police, he shouted at the victim “I’m gonna kill you!” Can anyone say that he doesn’t mean it?
I completely agree he should not go back to regular school. That’s a privilege and he has lost it. Thirty years in prison and a felony on his record I think is too much. At the very least he should have someone advocating on his behalf.
For sure, he will have that.
christine robinson says
Referring to the so called right wing “Christians” Hypocrites all of you! Do any of you know the characteristics of autism? Do you know it can take a day for autistic children to get out of crisis mode? Did you know eating disorders go with autism? Did you know the “aide/paraprofessional” now says she didn’t take his comfort object/calming toy/game away while Brendan told the cops this is why he did this? Who’s lying here? Do any of you know it is against the law to discipline a special needs child/autistic by an aide/paraprofessional? Something set this child into crisis mode and I think Brendan would know who took the toy out of his hands. I’ve called for the release of the classroom audio/video to see just what happened and by whom. Before being the satan loving ignorant bags of sh** learn before you put your input into something you do not understand. I’m ashamed of every uncompassionate, vile, arrogant, uninformed, heartless beings that show just why we are in the last days. Sickening all of you who are against a child with mental disabilities.
It’s easy to infer from your words that you are a kind and decent person.
David Schaefer says
Ms Robinson what side of the bed did you wake up on. The sorry punk deserves jail time let him play his games for 10 years and let him think about what he has done. Think about that one…..
Great article. I wish the politicians put the thought in to the issue you did. The million dollar bond stunk of a political stunt and it is terrible to see a disabled 17 year old possibly get a long prison sentence because the story got too much traction. In a vacuum does anyone really believe this is how it would’ve went?
Amber Pineau says
I have an Autistic child and if she ever acted like this…I would WANT her locked up too. There are consequences to your actions. And being Autistic doesn’t give you a free pass to do whatever you want in life. Autistic people have the capability to know right from wrong. And the fact he was threatening to kill her, told police he would kill her whenever he was released…I mean the “kid” isn’t really lacking that much in the communication department is he? And they wouldn’t try him as an adult if they felt he wasn’t competent enough to be seen as an adult. That “child” could have easily killed that woman. He was kicking and stomping on her head while she was unconscious, that could have gone so much worse. And you want him to get a few months off juvenile probation and send him right back out? Especially when he promised to kill her upon his release? Your insane. He deserves to be tried as an adult. And he deserves to be locked up. He’s a monster and a danger to society.
Amber: The whole, damned thing could have been prevented if the people in charge, who knew he had previous violent behavior, had not put him in a place where the teacher and para did not have the ability to handle him.
I am not going to argue here whether the kid knew what he did was right or wrong, my argument is that the so called professionals put him where he should not have been. It was incredibly stupid planning, and a woman almost lost her life over it.
What further disturbs me is that you, the mother of an autistic child, would rather blame the child, along with these mob mentality commenters here, than to put the blame where it really belongs. Would you place a teacher in a bull ring, then shoot the bull when it gores her?
Thurstomn Howell says
This guy should NOT be in society! Did you not see the merciless beating he gave the teacher lady??? Who will be his next victim when he gets upset about something??? He tried to KILL that woman! Lock him away where he belongs! In society if you act like a ANIMAL, you get treated like a animal behind bars!
Just A Floridian says
I don’t mean to sound rude but if you actually believe the student can’t be held responsible for his actions and that this is failed justice you are the one who needs mental help.
He’s in a group home so guessing family could not or would not help him. If you listened to him from his arrest ,he had all the vernacular down. Don’t manhandle me, and some other expletive for the cop. In my opinion he knew damn well he acted criminally, he started the narrative that he attacked the paraprofessional because she took something away from him.Well , the sheriff and news ran with his account because the victim was incapacitated by the violent attack perpetrated by this clown . He should be schooled via internet from his group home. He absolutely has the wherewithal to use computers, and then his group home can monitor him. He is an adult, maybe his meds need adjusting certainly his attitude needs one. Keep making excuses and not hold him accountable,and hopefully those who advocate for him as the victim,you are never on the receiving end of that kind of beat down by a6’6” 270 lb raging bull who after he beat you senseless continues to yell ,”I’ll kill you”!
He tried to kill her…he will try to kill in prison…he is a danger to anyone who cannot outmuscle him. Obviously needs to be in an environment where he cannot harm others…not sure where that is. I believe he knows what he did is wrong and has not faced consequences in the past. I pray for the teachers and staff who have to fear coming to work. No wonder they leave.
James Mejuto says
What do I think?: My message is to the Pierre Tristam groupi email writers, who enter messages many people do not understand. They use historical phrases, events and locations most readers don’t regard as essential to the message. Pierre is famous for historical facts and places which have nothing much to say, confusing readers. One groupi writer refers to a general statement using the Greek language while Pierre refers to mythological locations and messages which have nothing at all to do with the subject . . . they love to elevate themselves.
I think it’s about time we got away from Pierre and place ourselves smack dab in the middle of common sense writing.
Anyone who doesn’t think that he very well may have killed her had he not been stopped simply doesn’t understand people in that state of mind. The level of aggression of his assault and his assault altogether could easily have killed her she’s very lucky to have gotten out with only relatively minor injuries.
The attacker is clearly not well on many levels but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve harsh punishment. 30 years? that’s a bit much a few months? are you out of your damn mind??? Obviously yes that’s a stupid question be me given how the article is written. I can only hope the author just wrote this article for attention and doesn’t actually believe what he’s writing.
Billy Bunnell says
Republicans are esponsible for is, Reagan shut down all the mental health hospitals and Republicans have been trying to eliminate Abortions ever since sense. If his mother had an Abortion this would have never happened. If the mental facilities where still open, this would have never happened. Keep electing assholes like Mullins, DeSantis and Trump a6nd then you will see more and more of this preventable shit. Matter of fact if the mental facilities still existed, those three criminal politicians mentioned would be locked up.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
The public school system has failed again…
Principle and Superintendent should step down. Teachers and aids should be retrained.
These problems are not self-healing, hey instead of celebrating the fringe, maybe Democrats should focus on more mainstream issues like mental health and drug addiction.
Why is his supposed Autism being used as justification for his extremely violent behavior? I work with autistic kids for a living, and the vast majority of them are not violent or aggressive. They also happen to know right from wrong. It’s absolutely disgusting that autism is being used to explain or justify this attempted murder.
Carlos Fernandes says
How severe is his disability?
At his civil hearing he appears to be acutely aware of the publicity around this case and the trouble he is in.
And where are you going to put him if prison is out of the question? The county has voted down any taxes to build the needed facilities.
I don’t know how to characterize this crap…. But one thing for sure that it is not is journalism.
You state your exceedingly biased opinions as facts. The good news is that you and your opinions mean nothing. Depa is dangerous and hopefully he will be dealt with according
The column is clearly indicated as such: it is an opinion column, but grounded in reported and documented fact.
Nate Paes says
Everything wrong with this country is summed up in this ridiculous writing. He’s not a child. He’s been arrested 3 different times and has assaulted others. He almost beat a defenseless woman to death and the fitting punishing this writer thinks is ” a couple months probation”. Are you kidding me? He obviously has a pattern of violence. This wasn’t a punch out of anger this was a severe beating even after she was unconscious. So sick of this “he doesn’t deserve it” crap. He’s 6’6 and close enough to 18 he doesn’t get a pass. 13 year Olds have been tried as adults when the crime was severe enough and this is absolutely severe enough.