Lawsuit: Teacher Let Students Fight With Swords

Teen suffered life-changing injury in Albuquerque classroom, suit says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2024 4:50 PM CST

A chemistry teacher in New Mexico brought swords to class and egged students on to duel in what she said was " a lesson on metal and melding," according to a lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools. The lawsuit says teacher Loviata Mitchell brought a katana and a rapier-style sword to the Volcano Vista High School class in May 2022 and set up a timer for two-minute bouts, the Albuquerque Journal reports. According to the lawsuit, things went wrong in the second bout, when a 16-year-old girl was hit with the katana and "suffered a large and deep laceration across her right hand and wrist," per NBC News.

The lawsuit says that after the girl started bleeding heavily, Mitchell said, "I'm in trouble." She allegedly ordered students to delete recordings of the sword fights and to not tell anybody what had happened. The lawsuit says a student ran to the health office after the injured girl "began to feel nauseous and weak from blood loss," but it was 30 minutes before anybody called 911. An Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman says Mitchell was fired in July 2022, though the Journal notes that she still appears to have a teaching license. Mitchell is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as is assistant principal Manuel Alzaga, whose report on the injury claimed that school rules weren't violated.

The lawsuit from the girl's grandparents and guardians says the sword severed nerves and tendons. Jessica Hernandez, an attorney for the girl's family, says a surgeon "described the way that as he was doing the surgery inside, he could actually feel where the sword had made a mark in the bone," KOAT reports. She says the girl, who's right-handed, may never regain full use of her right hand and struggles with tasks like writing or doing up buttons. "This injury has changed her entire life," Hernandez says, per the Journal. "As a 16-year-old, when you get hurt like this, and all of a sudden you can't do the same things that you used to do—it's really discouraging. It's depressing. It's isolating." (More New Mexico stories.)

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