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New Mexico teacher had students duel with swords in class, leading to serious injury of teen girl, lawsuit says

The girl, then 16, "suffered a large and deep laceration across her right hand and wrist," her family said in the suit.
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A pair of New Mexico high school students dueled with swords in class at the behest of their teacher, badly and permanently injuring a teenage girl, her family said in a lawsuit.

The civil action was filed by Arnold and Judy Gachupin, the guardians and grandparents of a student — only identified as N.S. — who, it alleges, sustained severed nerves and tendons from a sword fight at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque on May 2, 2022.

The suit names Albuquerque Public Schools, Assistant Principal Manuel Alzaga and former chemistry teacher Loviata Mitchell as defendants.

Mitchell took katana- and rapier-style swords to school that day, had students re-arrange desks to form a ring in the middle of class and had pairs of pupils square off, the lawsuit claims.

After the first pair of dueling science students completed their two-minute bout, Mitchell called N.S. and classmate D.M. to fight, the suit says.

"D.M. struck N.S. across her right forearm, wrist, and hand with the katana-style sword," according to plaintiff's attorney Jessica Hernandez. "N.S. suffered a large and deep laceration across her right hand and wrist that is inconsistent with a 'prop' sword."

As soon as it became clear that N.S., who was 16 at the time, had been badly hurt, Mitchell screamed "I'm in trouble!" and ordered students to delete any videos they shot of the fights, the suit says.

Mitchell did not immediately call 911, and it took 20 minutes for the girl's grandfather, who is her guardian, to be notified, according to the lawsuit.

A school health assistant finally called 911 about 30 minutes after the girl was wounded, and Albuquerque fire EMS took her to an emergency room, Hernandez wrote.

The civil suit, filed last week in 2nd Judicial District Court, included graphic photographs of the girl's deep, bloody wounds.

A school report, which the suit says was written by Alzaga, the assistant principal, described it as "a lesson on metal and melding" when "the student accidentally cut the other student with it," according to the lawsuit.

"In response to the report's question, 'Did the injury violate school rules?' Mr. Alzaga checked a box indicating 'No,'" the lawsuit adds.

The girl has had to undergo operations, physical therapy and mental health counseling stemming from the classroom sword fight, the suit says. Basic tasks such as pressing buttons, fastening zippers and cooking are now daily challenges for the girl, her lawyer said.

"Despite this surgical repair of N.S.'s nerves and tendons, it was not possible to fully repair them, and they remain damaged," according to Hernandez. "As a result, her wrist and hand are permanently injured. Those injuries cause her ongoing daily pain, as well as cause her to be unable to perform many basic daily tasks."

A spokesperson for Albuquerque Public Schools would not comment Wednesday on behalf of the district and the assistant principal. She said they are barred from commenting on pending litigation.

Mitchell was fired in July 2022, said the school representative, who would not say why.

Two publicly listed phone numbers for Mitchell were disconnected on Wednesday. She did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.