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Teacher hosts sword fights in class, sending bloodied teen to hospital, lawsuit says

A student remains “scarred and disfigured” since her sophomore year of high school, when her teacher told students she brought a “surprise” into chemistry class, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.

The teacher revealed she had two swords, including a “katana-style sword,” in the science classroom at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 2, 2022, the lawsuit says.

Then, she instructed the students to fight each other with the weapons, in pairs, according to a complaint filed Feb. 23.

The teacher no longer works for the school, as she was fired two months later on July 30, 2022, Monica Armenta, the executive director of communications for Albuquerque Public Schools, told McClatchy News on Feb. 27.

The student, who was 16 when she was injured in class that day, initially recorded a video of a duel between two male students, the lawsuit says..

In the video that was provided to McClatchy News, the students are seen wielding the swords in the center of the classroom. One makes repeated advances toward the other as their blades continuously clash, according to the footage, which was filed as an exhibit in court.

When the video starts, the teacher yells “go” and is seen supervising the situation as a timer is displayed on a projector behind the students. At the end of the video, the teacher tells one of them, “you’re definitely dead.”

The student armed with a “katana-style sword” appeared to “wield it defensively by parrying the other student’s attacks, moving backward, and retreating away from the other student,” who had the teacher’s “rapier-style” sword, the complaint says.

Screengrab of the video. Attorney Jessica Hernandez
Screengrab of the video. Attorney Jessica Hernandez

“It is absolutely shocking that she is the one who created the danger by putting deadly weapons into the students’ hands and directing them to fight one another,” attorney Jessica Hernandez said in a statement to McClatchy News, on behalf of the family of the student who was injured.

Her family is suing Albuquerque Public Schools, the former teacher and the school’s assistant principal Manuel Alzaga.

The school district declined to comment on the lawsuit, as it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, Armenta said. McClatchy News contacted Alzaga for comment and didn’t receive an immediate response. Contact information for the former teacher wasn’t immediately available.

Student is selected to sword fight, then is sent to hospital

According to the lawsuit, the teacher “set a two-minute timer for each sword fight” — all while the school’s administration had no idea she brought blades into the building.

After the teen recorded her two male classmates sword fighting, the teacher selected her to fight another student, the complaint says.

During the fight, the other student “struck (the teen) across her right forearm, wrist, and hand with the katana-style sword, according to the complaint.

The impact of the blade deeply cut the 16-year-old’s right hand and wrist, and she began “bleeding heavily,” the complaint says.

“I’m in trouble,” the teacher exclaimed in response, according to the complaint.

Instead of immediately calling for help, the teacher is accused of telling the class to delete videos of the sword fights.

Then, she tried to phone the school’s health office for medical assistance but didn’t know how to call there while the teen was “bleeding profusely,” the complaint says.

Meanwhile, “as (the teen) began to feel nauseous and weak from blood loss, another student ran to the VVHS health office for medical assistance,” according to the complaint.

This led to a staff member responding to the classroom and calling 911 – 30 minutes after the student was wounded, the complaint says.

Albuquerque Fire Department EMS staff took the teen to an emergency room with a deep gash, according to the complaint, which includes graphic images of her injury.

In a report, the EMS staff wrote that one of the swords “appeared to be a real sword consistent with (a) ‘samurai sword’ style item,” the complaint says.

This photo shows one of the swords. Complaint
This photo shows one of the swords. Complaint

The student has undergone surgeries, occupational and physical therapy, and mental health counseling after the sword fight left her with severe damage to her nerves and tendons, according to the complaint.

She experiences “ongoing daily” pain, “as it was not possible to fully repair” the nerves and tendons in her hand and wrist, the complaint says.

Daily tasks are now a struggle for her, including cleaning, preparing meals and taking out the garbage.

“(The teacher) was neither qualified nor authorized to teach or supervise sword fighting, and (the student’s) guardians had not approved of her participation in any such activity,” the complaint says.

With the lawsuit, the student’s family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

“Our lawsuit seeks to hold the APS School Board accountable for ensuring that their teachers protect students rather than putting them directly in harm’s way,” Hernandez said on behalf of the family. “We also seek compensation for the permanent injuries that will affect this little girl for the rest of her life.”

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