Florida school district to pay $600,000 over death of students who were hypnotized by principal


  • Photo via Sarasota County School District

The Sarasota County School District is paying $600,000 to settle with the families of three North Port High School students who died after being hypnotized by former principal George Kenney. 

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that an investigation into the school found that Kenney had hypnotized 75 students, staff members and others at the high school from 2006 to 2011.

In April 2011, Kenney confessed to hypnotizing 16-year-old Wesley McKinley one day before the teen committed suicide. According to one of McKinley's friends, McKinley would sometimes have trouble remembering his name when he got on the bus after sessions. 

Later the investigation found that Kenney had also hypnotized two other students who died in tragic ways. Marcus Freeman, 16, was the football team's quarterback and had trouble concentrating in games when he was in pain. Kenney hypnotized him and taught him self-hypnosis tricks, which investigators believe Freeman was attempting to do while driving after a visit to the dentist in March 2011. The teen got a strange look on his face and veered off the highway, causing an accident and dying from his injuries. Brittany Palumbo, 17, was being hypnotized by Kenney to help with college test anxiety before she took her life in the same year.  

Kenney, who also was popular among the student body, was charged with two misdemeanors in 2012, including practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license. He served a year of probation, gave up his teaching license and moved out of state to run a bed and breakfast. 

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