Teen sues high school after science teacher brought swords to class and instructed students to fight

A New Mexico school, its vice principal, and a teacher there are the subject of a lawsuit alleging that the teacher brought real swords into her science classroom and instructed students to fight with them, causing one student to become badly injured.

The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of the student, identified only as N.S., by her grandparents and permanent guardians, Arnold and Judy Gachupin. According to the lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 23, N.S. was a 16-year-old sophomore at Albuquerque Public Schools’ Volcano Vista High School at the time.

The incident began when the teacher, identified in the lawsuit as Loviata Mitchell, brought two swords into the school on May 2, 2022. She allegedly hid them from students, security staff and other school personnel, until the class that N.S. was in. At that point, Mitchell allegedly announced that she had “surprise” for her students, according to the lawsuit, and revealed the two swords. One was a katana-style sword with a “long, curved blade and sharp edge,” according to the lawsuit, and the second was a rapier-style sword. Mitchell, according to the lawsuit, told the students the swords were props. 

After bringing out the weapons, Mitchell allegedly instructed the students to rearrange their desks and create a space in the middle of the classroom for pairs of students to fight. The fights were timed with a two-minute timer displayed on the classroom’s projector, and filmed and photographed by other students, including N.S. Video footage of the fights was included in the lawsuit, and “shows Ms. Mitchell looking on approvingly.” Mitchell had no certifications or experience in sword-fighting, the lawsuit said. 

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One of the swords used in the fight.

Lawsuit photo


N.S. was then called to fight, but shortly after the bout began, she was struck across her right forearm, wrist and hand by the katana-style sword, causing a “large and deep laceration” that began to bleed profusely, according to the lawsuit. Mitchell allegedly stated “I’m in trouble!” after the injury occurred, and ordered students to delete video recordings of the fights and to not tell anyone about them. 

Mitchell also allegedly delayed calling for help. N.S.’s grandfather was contacted about 20 minutes after the injury was sustained, and because Mitchell could not figure out how to dial the nurse’s office, it wasn’t until N.S. “began to feel nauseous and weak from blood loss” that another student left the room to get medical assistance. About 30 minutes after N.S. was cut, 911 was called and N.S. was brought to the hospital. 

The lawsuit described the injury as a “gaping wound” that resulted in injuries to nerves and tendons in N.S.’s dominant hand. The nerves and tendons remain damaged, despite surgery on the area, and “cause ongoing daily pain,” according to the lawsuit, and make it difficult or impossible for N.S. to perform “many basic daily tasks” including preparing food, fastening buttons and zippers, and more. She continues to undergo occupational and physical therapy, the lawsuit said, but her dominant hand remains significantly weaker than her non-dominant hand. The teen was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the lawsuit said. 

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One of the swords.

Lawsuit photo


“Because of the injury, N.S. has become withdrawn and depressed; as a result, the Plaintiffs no longer enjoy as close of a relationship with their granddaughter,” the lawsuit said. “N.S. is not the same emotionally as she was before the injury, and this has affected the Plaintiffs’ relationship with N.S., their quality of life, and their home environment.” 

The lawsuit also alleges that the school attempted to cover up the incident, with the assistant principal, identified as Manuel Alzaga, filling out an official accident report that described the swords a prop brought in to teach a students a lesson “on metal and melding.” The incident report noted that N.S. had been injured, but said that the injury did not violate school rules, despite the school and state both prohibiting deadly weapons, which would include swords, from being brought onto school campuses. The lawsuit argued that this was an attempt to deflect liability away from Mitchell. 

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs and other relief. The school told CBS News that it could not comment on the allegations, citing a policy against commenting on pending litigation. 

According to the lawsuit, Mitchell is no longer a teacher at Volcano Vista High School. 

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