Columbia County

Lake City Middle School teacher fired, accused of abusing a disabled student

LAKE CITY, Fla. — A Lake City Middle School teacher has been fired after an investigation by the Columbia County School District in which she is accused of kicking a disabled student.

According to the report, Denise Nash kicked a student back in January, but the incident wasn’t brought to the attention of the superintendent until March.

The superintendent said Nash was fired April 13.

According to CCSD, Nash had been an employee since 2003, and had worked at Lake City Middle School since 2007.

A CCSD investigation summary reveals on January 19, allegations of Nash kicking a disabled eighth grade student.

”I can’t even imagine how the parents must be feeling,” a Lake City Middle School mother who wanted to remain anonymous said. “You always think that our children are protected and safe at school, especially from their teachers.”

The report by CCSD says a custodian sent text messages to LCMS’ principal Robert Cooper and Assistant Principal William Murphy about the incident. According to the report, it happened in Nash’s self-contained ESE classroom for children with disabilities.

The report says the student was being escorted from the cafeteria to the classroom, and sat down in a doorway, refusing to go any further. It says after staff members tried to get the student up, Nash allegedly approached the doorway, and her “foot made contact with [the student’s] back.”

In the report, Nash said the door mat was to blame for her foot making contact with the student.

A teacher who asked to remain anonymous told Action News Jax she’d worked with Nash in the past. “The situation has been kept very hush-hush,” the teacher said, adding that several other staff members had been raising concerns to Principal Cooper for months about Nash being verbally abusive to students. “For whatever reason, he did not act on their reports,” the teacher added.

According to the CCSD report, the custodian said there were three other witnesses. The report says the incident did not come to the attention of the superintendent until March. This then opened a second, separate investigation into administration at LCMS, according to the report.

Action News Jax called CCSD School Board Chair Stephanie Johns about the incident. Johns said, “there is an ongoing litigation, and no further comments.

Action News Jax reached out to Nash; we made contact with her husband, who referred us to her attorney, HB Stivers.

“She denies doing anything wrong, and that we are challenging the school board on what they have alleged,” Stivers said, adding that the school board has started using a “process”, and, “we are going to utilize that process to clear her.”

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office tells Action News Jax Nash has a previous battery charge from March of 2019.

“I don’t believe that she should’ve been here at all,” the anonymous mother said in response to that fact.

CCSO tells Action News Jax it opened an investigation through its school resource deputy back in April. Nash was charged with child abuse without great bodily harm, a third degree felony.

CCSO says her case has gone to the State Attorney’s Office.

Action News Jax has asked the district nor Nash’s employment file and any other documents surrounding her; the school district is working to get that information to us.