Florida principal George Kenney hypnotized three students who all died a short time later. The parents of the North Port High School students filed a lawsuit against the school after the tragic deaths. The families will each receive $200,000 from the Sarasota County School District as a part of the lawsuit settlement.
North Port High School Principal George Kenney hypnotized approximately 75 students and staff from 2006 to 2011, the Daily Mail reports. Kenney, who was reassigned to an administrative position at the Sarasota school district, was not licensed to perform hypnosis and engaged in the activity during school hours illegally.
Florida school board attorney Art Hardy said the district is “just happy to put this behind them” during an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The parents of the three students who died not long after being hypnotized by principal Kenney filed the lawsuit against the Sarasota County School District. The students who died in back-to-back deaths in 2011, include: Wesley McKinley, 16, Brittany Palumbo, 17, and Marcus Freeman, 16.
After the students committed suicide, the North Port High School principal admitted to hypnotizing all three of the teenagers. He performed hypnosis on Wesley McKinley on the same day that he killed himself.
Marcus Freeman was the quarterback of the North Port High School football team. Freeman was the first student hypnotized by the principal to die. He reportedly asked Kenney to perform hypnosis to help him to better concentrate on the football field. After engaging in hypnotic therapy with the principal, Freeman was taught how to perform self-hypnosis.
On March 15, 2011, Freeman was driving back home from a painful visit to the dentist, and his girlfriend was in the car with him. Freeman was said to have appeared to be in a state of hypnosis when a “strange look” came over his face and he drove right off the interstate. The girlfriend survived the crash, but the North Port high football player later died from injuries sustained during the accident.
The following month, Wesley McKinley committed suicide by hanging himself. Thomas Lyle, a friend of McKinley’s, stated during a lawsuit deposition that McKinley had been hypnotized on at least three occasions to help him practice for his guitar audition for Juilliard. Lyle also maintained that sometimes after the hypnosis sessions with the principal, he would get on the school bus and not recognize his friends or even know his own name. On the day he killed himself, McKinley allegedly asked Lyle to punch him in the face.
Brittany Palumbo was hypnotized by Kenney to help her better concentrate in order to improve her SAT scores. When her test scores did not improve to the level she had wanted, Palumbo became depressed and killed herself in May, 2011.
An official at the Florida school district reportedly warned Principal Kenney not to hypnotize students without written parental consent on three separate occasions. The lawsuit settlement was reached on October 1, a few days before civil court proceedings were scheduled to begin. The $600,000 payout to the parents of the hypnotized students was the largest amount allowed without garnering specific approval from both the governor and the state legislature.
The parents of the two teenagers who committed suicide and one that died in a car crash said they did not file the lawsuit against the Sarasota school district for the money, but instead to make sure the principal would never again perform hypnosis on students.
“We are satisfied with the overall outcome, although this is a very hollow victory,” Brittany Palumbo’s parents, Michael and Patricia Palumbo, said in a statement after the lawsuit settlement was announced.
“‘It’s something they will never get over. It’s probably the worst loss that can happen to a parent is to lose a child, especially needlessly because you had someone who decided to perform medical services on kids without a license,” attorney for the families, Damian Mallard, said. “He altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it.”
George Kenney was charged with two misdemeanor counts of practicing hypnosis without a license in 2012. The former North Port High School principal pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to one year of probation. Kenney was not permitted to practice unlicensed hypnosis while on probation. He gave up his teaching license in 2013, and has been banned from ever applying for another. The principal who hypnotized three students who later died is now reportedly operating a bed and breakfast in Waynesville, North Carolina, where he also makes stained glass.
The grieving parents were not happy that Kenney was never apologized or admitted any wrongdoing and is now living a comfortable life during his retirement in North Carolina.
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