High School Student Suffered Severed Nerve During In-Class Sword Duel

By Bill Galluccio

February 29, 2024

Tokyo, Japan
Photo: fabio formaggio / 500px / 500Px Plus / Getty Images

A 16-year-old New Mexico high school student was severely injured during an in-class sword fight organized by a science teacher. The student's grandparents, Arnold and Judy Gachupin, filed a lawsuit claiming their granddaughter's nerves and tendons were severed, causing permanent damage.

The lawsuit alleges that former chemistry teacher Loviata Mitchell brought sharpened swords to her class at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque on May 2, 2022, and let students spar during class.

The students were not given protective equipment while fighting.

During the second bought, the victim, who was identified by her initials N.S., was slashed across the arm by her opponent.

"N.S. suffered a large and deep laceration across her right hand and wrist that is inconsistent with a 'prop' sword," the lawsuit says.

Once Mitchell realized the severity of the injury, she screamed, "I'm in trouble," and ordered students to delete videos of the sword fights.

The lawsuit then says it took school officials over 30 minutes before they called 911 to get the girl the medical help she needed. She was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery for her injuries, though the lawsuit says they will never fully heal.

"Despite this surgical repair of N.S.'s nerves and tendons, it was not possible to fully repair them, and they remain damaged," family attorney Jessica Hernandez said. "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."

In addition to allowing students to fight with real swords, the lawsuit claims that the school's assistant principal, Manuel Alzaga, covered up what happened. In a report on the incident, Alzaga described it as an accident that occurred 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 states.

Mitchell was fired from her job in July 2022, though no reason for her termination was given.

School officials said they could not comment on the lawsuit.

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