- January 10, 2020
A 17-year-old Matanzas High School special education student who attacked a paraprofessional on Feb. 21 has been charged as an adult with aggravated battery on an educational employee, according to court records.
The charge, a first-degree felony, is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
The student, identified as Brendan Depa, is scheduled to appear before Judge Melissa Distler on March 13 at the Flagler County courthouse.
Survelliance video showed the student knocking paraprofessional Joan Naydich unconscious, stomping on her and punching her repeatedly in the head.
Thankfully, students and staff members came to the victim’s aid before the SRDs could arrive, Our schools should be a safe place – for both employees and students. — Sheriff RICK STALY
According to the arrest report, Depa, who is described as 6 foot, 6 inches and weighing about 270 pounds, attacked the much smaller paraprofessional.
Surveillance video showed the student running at Naydich and knocking her hard to the floor, where she fell face down, unconscious.
The student then stomped on her twice, straddled her, and began punching her in the back and the head, hitting her 15 times before MHS employees could pull him off of her. He kicked her again as a staff member pushed him away.
A school resource deputy arrived after the student was restrained by a dean, according to the arrest report.
The student told the deputy that he would beat the paraprofessional every time she takes away his Nintendo Switch.
Depa was first charged with felony aggravated battery and bodily harm. He was released Feb. 22 from the Department of Juvenile Justice to his group home in Palm Coast, which is operated by East Coast Habilitation Options.
He was re-arrested on Feb. 24 and charged with the first-degree felony. Bond was set at $1 million.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up by Jessica White Leon for Naydich, a mother of two. As of the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 28, it had raised over $60,000. On Feb. 26, Naydich's daughter wrote on the page that her mother was home and recovering.
On Feb. 27, White Leon posted a message that was dictated by Naydich, which said that contrary to reports, she never confiscated the Nintendo Switch from the student.
The message begins: "Overwhelmed with the idea of the long fight ahead... your contributions are lessening that burden and I'm truly grateful! I'm hopeful that the awareness of this incident being spread far and wide will prevent anyone else from ever dealing with the trauma, physical healing and disruption of everyday life that this has caused. It's touching to know that so many care."
To contribute to the Go Fund Me, go to www.gofundme.com/f/support-encouragement-for-joan.
Depa had previously been charged as a juvenile with first-degree misdemeanor battery three times in 2019 in Hillsborough County.
According to court records, he successfully completed a Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program.
In the Matanzas incident, the deputy reported that when he was typing his report, the student kept asking about returning to his group home. When the deputy didn't have answers, the student started kicking the deputy's desk, knocking the deputy's computer monitor to the ground.
Body cam footage of the arrest showed deputies handcuffing the student. The student asked if he was going to jail. When the deputy answered, "Yes you are," he asked for how long.
When the deputy asked if he was going to be cool, the student said, "F--- you. I don't want to go to jail. I have more important places to be."
As deputies walked him past the paraprofessional as she was being treated by EMS workers, the student yelled, "Stupid (expletive), I'm going to (f-ing) kill you."
Naydich was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to a press release from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
“Thankfully, students and staff members came to the victim’s aid before the SRDs could arrive,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Our schools should be a safe place – for both employees and students.
“The actions of this student are absolutely horrendous and completely uncalled for,” Staly added. “We hope the victim will be able to recover, both mentally and physically, from this incident.”
School Board Chair Cheryl Massaro spoke about the incident the following day at the board's business meeting. Public schools are required to teach students with behavioral problems, she said.
"We are required to educate all children, all children," Massaro said. "When you look at private schools, what happens is behavioral kids come back to public schools all the time, and we have no choice but to educate them the best that we possibly can. That is the law."