Teen Files Lawsuit Against School After Assaulting Staff Member

A student convicted of aggravated battery of a school staffer is suing a Flagler County, Florida school district, claiming the failure of the school to address his needs was the cause of the incident. Eighteen-year-old Brendan Depa, standing 6’6″ and weighing 270 pounds, attacked a school paraprofessional over a video game that was disrupting a class.

The attack at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast was caught on a security camera. The staffer who was attacked, Joan Naydich, was left unconscious and suffered broken ribs, a concussion and hearing loss.

The lawsuit alleges the district is at fault for not addressing the teen’s special needs, which they argue contributed directly to the incident. The claim states: “The district should be held to account for its failures, which have forever changed the trajectory of this young man’s life.”

According to court documents, the issue escalated when Naydich threatened to take away Depa’s Nintendo Switch, a move that his attorneys claim “triggered” the violent response due to Depa’s autism spectrum disorder and other behavioral issues. The complaint alleges a lack of adequate support and intervention from the school, claiming that Naydich specifically and the district, in general, were aware of Depa’s triggers and failed to manage the situation appropriately.

Naydich testified that she remembered Nepa standing over her, kicking and punching her before she lost consciousness. She said she heard Depa cursing her as she left the classroom to get away from him before he spit in her face as the assault took place in the hallway outside. A mother of two children, Naydich said the incident and her injuries have made her a “totally different person” and “turned her life upside down.”

The teen’s lawyers allege that Depa was “punished by being denied his electronic device, even though other students were allowed theirs. The paraprofessional and the teacher began discussing his ability to bring electronics to school, in front of him and in front of his classmates.”

The lawsuit also attempts to justify the attack by saying Depa “attempted to defend himself,” although the staffers “ignored him and continued to talk about him in front of him and his classmates.”

Depa is demanding compensatory education at an alternative facility and monetary compensation for Depa’s placement in a specialized behavioral therapeutic school. It also demands the school district pay all of Depa’s attorneys’ fees.

Depa’s allegations include: “As a large Black male student, he is subjected to misperceptions and racism.”

The lawsuit reflects a disturbing trend where responsibility is shifted away from individual actions to institutions — and, in this case, the victim of a violent attack — for “causing” a perpetrator to break the law.

Especially following the severe disruptions during the pandemic, caused largely by the aggressive lobbying of teachers’ unions, schools are being increasingly challenged to address the concerns of students with special needs.

The school district has not yet formally responded to the lawsuit filed by Depa’s lawyers. Meanwhile, Depa is set to appear in court for sentencing for his conviction on Wednesday.

He faces up to 30 years in prison for his conviction of aggravated battery of an education employee.