A Florida teacher, who was beaten and left unconscious by a student over a video game console, has revealed that the attacker spat on her and used slurs during the brutal attack. Joan Naydich, 59, was attacked in February by 17-year-old Brendan Depa, who, standing at 6'6" and weighing nearly 270 pounds, physically towered her.
Depa spat at Naydich and verbally abused her, using derogatory language such as 'bitch' and 'w***e' after she complained to another staff member that his Nintendo Switch was distracting fellow students. The mother-of-two said that she is yet to come out of the trauma as the assault has transformed her into a "totally different person."
A Life-Changing Incident
The teenager pleaded no contest to an aggravated battery charge. His sentencing is pending at the end of the month for the severe assault, which inflicted five broken ribs, a concussion, and resulted in hearing loss for Joan Naydich.
"The last thing I remember is having my hand on the door handle," Naydich said recounting the traumatic experience in an interview with the New York Post.
"I don't remember anything [else] until 3:30 p.m. when I came to. And at that point I was in the ER and my son and daughter were standing there."
"My whole life was just turned upside down."
Surveillance footage shows the hulking teen throwing punches and kicks at Naydich, causing her to fall to the floor. The assailant then continues to strike her at least a dozen times in the head and back, even as she remains motionless.
Naydich discussed the details of the case, shedding light on the events leading up to the assault that resulted in five broken ribs, a concussion, and emotional distress. She revealed that Depa spat at her and used derogatory language such as "bitch" and "whore".
Originally from Rhode Island, Naydich relocated to Palm Coast, Florida, where she began working in the Flagler County School District in 2003. Initially assigned to the Matanzas High School cafeteria for nearly two decades, she later pursued the necessary certifications to become a classroom aide.
Naydich's first encounter with Depa, an autistic teen, took place in January 2022 in a special needs classroom. In this capacity, she assisted the primary teacher in ensuring that Depa and his classmates successfully reached their different destinations throughout the day.
Depa, who had been adopted as a young child and later placed in a group home, appeared to Naydich as an intelligent yet troubled teenager.
In moments of agitation, he would express his frustration by hurling epithets, often using variations of the term "bitch," directed at Naydich and other staff members.
However, for over a year, Naydich did not perceive any physical threat from her student, despite the challenges and verbal aggression she encountered.
"He would try to intimidate," she said.
"But during that school year it never got to the point where he became violent. It was just verbal."
In moments of calm, Depa would exhibit an advanced intellect, demonstrating sufficient self-control to participate in a computer class alongside general education students at Matanzas High School.
On the day of the attack, the teen became agitated because he had to wait for other students to arrive before heading to the cafeteria for breakfast. He told Naydich that he hadn't been given dinner the night before.
After having breakfast, Depa proceeded to his regular special needs class, where his main teacher typically allowed him to use his Nintendo Switch if he completed his work. Naydich accompanied him to his next class, where there was a substitute teacher.
Depa took out his gaming console, causing a distraction among some of the other students. Naydich requested that he put it away.
Although the teen initially complied, he procured the console again toward the end of the period. Naydich then texted his primary teacher, advising her that it might be prudent for Depa not to bring the console into the same class in the future.
Upon returning to his regular classroom, Depa realized that Naydich had informed the teacher about the incident in the previous class when she brought up the issue. This angered him, leading to his enraged state.
"That's when he started calling me names,' Naydich said. 'B**ch. W**re. This and that."
Sensing a shift in the atmosphere, Naydich grabbed her backpack and sweatshirt, preparing to leave the room. At that moment, Depa spat in her face, and as she turned to open the door, he violently knocked her unconscious.
Almost a year after the attack, Naydich continues to carry both physical and mental scars. She experiences slowed speech and encounters difficulties with routine cognitive functions. Medical professionals are currently working to determine a diagnosis for some of her symptoms.