What we know: Teacher's aide disputes account of Matanzas High School attack

·5 min read

The teacher’s aide violently attacked by a Matanzas High School student allegedly over a video game has disputed the account of the attack as reported in court records.

In a post on a GoFundMe page established to help cover medical expenses for the paraprofessional, Joan Naydich, she offered her first statement on the incident:

“I just want to set the record straight,” Naydich stated in a post dictated to Jessica White Leon, a parent of students at the Palm Coast high school who started the fundraising page. “I never took the Nintendo Switch from him. From anyone that's read or heard differently, I've been told this was unfortunately misinformation.”

Sheriff: Student attacked paraprofessional at Matanzas High School. Warning graphic, violent content.
Sheriff: Student attacked paraprofessional at Matanzas High School. Warning graphic, violent content.

Student being charged as adult

The charges against the student accused of attacking Naydich have been upgraded to adult court where he now faces a felony, according to court records.

Student arrested: Sheriff: Matanzas High School student arrested in attack on paraprofessional

Matanzas High SchoolWill student who attacked teacher's aide be expelled? Here's the process

Brendan J. Depa, 17, was charged with aggravated battery on a school board employee, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The News-Journal is naming Depa because he was charged as an adult.

Depa is being held in the Duval County jail on $1 million bond. The Flagler County jail does not have a facility for juveniles.

The incident occurred on Feb. 21 at the high school in Palm Coast where Naydich works as a paraprofessional, according to a charging affidavit. A paraprofessional is assigned to students with individual education plans, according to the district.

“The student stated that he was upset because the victim took his Nintendo Switch away from him during class,” according to a charging affidavit. It also describes Depa as 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 270 pounds.

In a graphic school surveillance video that has drawn worldwide attention to the attack, Depa is seen rushing across the room, kicking and punching an unconscious Naydich several times in the back and head about 15 times, according to the affidavit.

On the video, it took four school staff members to pull the student away from the Naydich, who was hospitalized for her injuries but now is recovering at home, according to her GoFundMe page.

Video released: Video shows student attack Matanzas High School teacher's aide for taking Nintendo Switch

Following the attack, Depa asked what was going to happen to him and whether he'd be allowed to return to his group home, according to a charging affidavit. When a deputy responded he did not have an answer, Depa began kicking a desk and a computer system, causing a monitor to fall to the floor, the affidavit stated.

Sheriff: Student attacked paraprofessional at Matanzas High School. Warning graphic, violent content.
Sheriff: Student attacked paraprofessional at Matanzas High School. Warning graphic, violent content.

Court documents indicate Depa was staying at a place called “ECHO," which apparently refers to East Coast Habilitation Options, a group home in Palm Coast.

The organization’s Facebook page describes it as a “group home agency for behaviorally challenged children and young adults.”  A help wanted ad says the home “helps children, teens and adults with autism, intellectual disabilities, and behavior challenges.”

As Depa was led away in handcuffs he passed by where medical personnel were treating Naydich. Depa started to spit toward Naydich and then yelled he would kill her, according to the charging affidavit and body camera video.

Depa charged previously with battery in Hillsborough County

Juvenile justice records listed three misdemeanor battery charges against Depa, all of which took place in the 13th Judicial Circuit which covers Hillsborough County. The charges were each listed as first-degree misdemeanors, according to records.

More:Student charged in Matanzas High School attack had 3 previous battery charges

The first misdemeanor battery charge was for an incident that occurred on June 5, 2019, and the case was closed five days later, according to records.

Depa was charged with two additional misdemeanor batteries in incidents on April 25, 2019, and March 22, 2019. Both of those were closed on May 8, 2019.

The record indicates that in all three misdemeanor battery cases Depa was referred to a program known as JDAP. Another notation mentions JDAP Bays.

An internet search shows a program called Bays JDAP in Tampa. Its website states it is a juvenile diversion program for youth 17 and younger who were charged with misdemeanor offenses. Participants in the program must be referred by the Department of Juvenile Justice and approved by the State Attorney’s Office.

The program provides services including monitoring and anger management and strives to minimize the risk of the youth becoming a repeat offender, according to the site.

Will the student be expelled?

The Flagler County School District's investigation of the attack is separate from the criminal case being handled by law enforcement and the State Attorney's Office.

Jason Wheeler, spokesman for the Flagler County School District, said officials generally finish school board investigations within a couple of weeks.

Depa had a paraprofessional assigned to him as part of his individualized education plan, Wheeler said Monday. However, the district wouldn't specify whether Naydich was assigned to the student.

Sheriff: Student attacked paraprofessional at Matanzas High School. Warning graphic, violent content.
Sheriff: Student attacked paraprofessional at Matanzas High School. Warning graphic, violent content.

Donations for teacher's aide pouring in

In less than a week, the online fund-raising drive for Naydich has generated more than $78,000 in donations from 1,900 contributors, far eclipsing the site’s original goal that has since been raised to $80,000.

In her dictated comments on the site, Naydich expressed her gratitude, stating that she was “overwhelmed with the idea of the long fight ahead.

“Your contributions are lessening that burden and I'm truly grateful!” she wrote. “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. This certainly wasn't how I saw my son's senior year turning out for our family.”

News-Journal reporters Frank Fernandez and Katie Kustura contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Matanzas High teacher's aide: 'I never took the Nintendo Switch'