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Lawsuit: New Mexico Teenager Disabled After Teacher Told Students to Duel with Katana, Rapier

— March 1, 2024

Attorneys for the family of the 16-year-old injured in the alleged duel note that Volcano Vista High School’s assistant principal had tried describing the incident as “a lesson on metal and melding.”

An unusual lawsuit claims that a New Mexico teacher encouraged two high school students to engage in mock combat with swords, culminating in a duel that left one teenage girl seriously injured and permanently disabled.

According to NBC News, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week on behalf of Arnold and Judy Gachupin, the guardians and grandparents of the 16-year-old student, who is referred to only by her initials—N.S.—in legal documents.

N.S., attorneys say, sustained a range of debilitating injuries during and after the May 2022 incident, including severed nerves and tendons.

The lawsuit names defendants including Albuquerque Public Schools, Volcano Vista High School Assistant Principal Manuel Alzaga, and former chemistry teacher Loviata Mitchell.

Mitchell, writes NBC News, allegedly took “katana- and rapier-style swords” to school on the day of the duel, asking that students form their desks into a semi-circle.

After two other students fought one another for two minutes, N.S. and another classmate—D.M.—were called forward.

“D.M. struck N.S. across her right forearm, wrist, and hand with the katana-style sword,” attorney Jessica Hernandez wrote in the lawsuit. “N.S. suffered a large and deep laceration across her right hand and wrist that is inconsistent with a ‘prop’ sword.”

Mitchell, realizing that N.S. had suffered significant injuries, then screamed “I’m in trouble!” before ordering students to delete any videos they had taken of the duels.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, the complaint states that Mitchell did not immediately call 9-1-1 or make any immediate effort to notify N.S.’s guardians. In total, it allegedly took more than 20 minutes for educators to call the injured student’s grandfather of the incident.

Alzaga, who filled out a report detailing the circumstances of N.S.’s injuries, indicated that they were sustained during “a lesson on metal and melding.”

“In response to the report’s question, ‘Did the injury violate school rules?’ Mr. Alzaga checked a box indicating ‘No,’” the lawsuit says.

N.S. was eventually taken to a hospital for further treatment. She underwent surgery, enrolled in physical rehabilitation, and mental health counseling.

“Despite [the] surgical repair of N.S.’s nerves and tendons, it was not possible to fully repair them, and they remain damaged,” Hernandez wrote. “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.”

Even now, N.S. allegedly struggles to perform basic tasks, like buttoning her shirt or fastening zippers. Hernandez told Albuquerque-based KRQE that these injuries will likely impact N.S. for the rest of her life.

“It’s been devastating. I mean as you can imagine, this is a high school girl that this happens to. Not only is her life completely different, not only does she have the pain of a very serious injury that had a surgery with a very long recovery, but she also now has a very dramatic scar right on her wrist,” Hernandez said.

“Job prospects are now off the table for her,” Hernandez said. “She’ll never be able to use her dominant hand the way she used to.”

Although the school district declined media requests to comment on the litigation, officials did note that Mitchell was removed from her position in July 2022.


Classroom sword duel held by New Mexico teacher leaves teen student with severed nerves: lawsuit

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

Sword Duel in New Mexico Classroom Left Girl, 16, with Severed Nerves and PTSD, Lawsuit Alleges

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