Throw the book at Brendan Depa and the system that failed Joan Naydich

In February, an autistic teen named Brendan Depa beat public school paraprofessional Joan Naydich in a vicious assault captured on surveillance video at Florida’s Matanzas High School. 

Appallingly, the district school employing her has since put her on unpaid leave.

Why on earth would it do that?

The woman was injured on the job by a student.

Was it because Naydich has steadfastly refused to plead for clemency on Depa’s behalf?

She’s absolutely right: The video shows Depa, who stands 6 feet 6 inches and then weighed 270 pounds, knocking Naydich to the floor and then violently stomping and showering blows on her.

It took four other staffers to pull him off. 

The assault left Naydich hospitalized with five broken ribs, hearing loss and a concussion, plus ongoing cognitive symptoms. 

This was a brutal attack designed to inflict maximum punishment, all because another teacher had taken away Depa’s Nintendo Switch.

Now Naydich — having managed to survive her severe injuries — is living on GoFundMe donations. 

Brendan Depa appears before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins at the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center in Bunnell, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.
Brendan Depa, who officials said has autism, beat a teacher over a confiscated Nintendo Switch.
Nigel Cook/News-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Unconscionable on its own. And doubly so if it’s because she’s refusing to do anything to lighten Depa’s sentence. 

Yes, Depa has autism, but he had three battery arrests prior to this assault. 

And he reportedly told the cops that he was going to kill Naydich — again, because he was deprived of a handheld video game console — once released from custody.

He faces, rightly, a sentence of up to 30 years.

Autistic or not, he’s clearly a danger to society. 

The story is a perfect storm of public school failures: the refusal to actually keep others (students and staff) safe from ticking time bombs like Depa; the lazy incompetence of the response (the video shows a security officer ambling toward the teen mid-attack as if there were all the time in the world).  

That Depa was enrolled in a regular public school at all is a travesty.

That the school’s incompetence and laxity permitted this to happen is an enormity.

That Naydich has been deprived of a way to earn a living is a moral crime. 

That even now Depa has defenders hawking racial-grievance politics on Twitter is obscene. 

So pray that Judge Terrence Perkins delivers the maximum

Because it’s not only Depa who belongs in prison. It’s the school administrators who let this happen and the whole rotten system they thrive in.