By Nigel Boys
George Kenney, the former Principal of North Port High School, Florida, who reportedly hypnotized as many as 75 of his students and staff between 2006 and 2011, was accused of causing the death of 3 of his students in 2011.
The parents of two 16-year-old’s, Wesley McKinley and Marcus Freeman, along with the parents of 17-year-old Brittany Palumbo, who all died in 2011 after being hypnotized by Kenney, initiated legal proceeding against the school board the following year.
On Tuesday, just a few days before the matter was due to go to trial, the board of the Sarasota County School District voted to pay $600,000 in settlement to the families of the three students, $200,000 to each family.
“It’s something they will never get over,” attorney Damian Mallard told reporters. “He altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it.”
Freeman, who was a quarterback on the school’s football team, reportedly sought the help of Kenney through hypnosis to help him concentrate on the field.
Freeman died in a car accident in March 2011 as he was driving home from a dental appointment with his girlfriend, who survived the accident. He was believed to have been in a state of hypnosis when he drove off the interstate, according to Christian News.net.
McKinley was found hanging outside of his home the following month after being reportedly hypnotized by Kenney that day. He had gone to the principal for help to practice for a guitar audition with New York’s Julliard music school.
NBC News reports that Kenney was placed on administrative leave after he admitted that he’d hypnotized McKinley on the day he killed himself. He pleaded no contest to practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license, resigned in June 2012 and served a year’s probation.
“I would say that he was in a distant phase,” said McKinley’s friend, Thomas Lyle, adding that sometimes he wouldn’t know his friend or even his own name after being hypnotized. “He wasn’t all there mentally it seemed like, after the sessions.”
Palumbo had reportedly gone to Kenney to help her improve her SAT scores through hypnotism. He allegedly believed she was suffering from test anxiety, but when her grades didn’t improve after hypnosis, she was found hanging in her closet about five months later.
“The School Board has concluded that a mutually acceptable settlement is in the best interests of all parties involved,” Scott Ferguson, a spokesman for Sarasota County Schools, said in a statement to the media.
“The school board is as negligent as Dr. Kenney is, or Mr. Kenney, I should say,” Palumbo’s mother, Patricia Palumbo, said. “I need those other families to know that I’m trying to help their kids and their families so that they don’t end up like my daughter and my family.”
Describing Kenney as “a rogue principal,” Freeman’s mother, Dana Freeman, said, “There’s nothing that can bring Marcus back, but the Freeman’s hope this will give them some closure.”
Stating they believed that Wesley’s friends “did not let him down in any way,” McKinley’s parents, Charles McKinley and Margaret Jacobson, said their son’s death was solely the fault of principal Kenney.
“I’m not saying I used great judgment all the time here,” Kenney said during a board review in 2011. “I think I used poor judgment several times.”
However, some students at North Port High stood behind Kenney demanding that he be reinstated as principal. They even created Facebook pages with the titles, “Bring Back Dr. Kenney” and “Students in Support of Dr. George Kenney.”
“This whole thing about Dr. Kenney having any part of any death is ridiculous,” a post from November 2011 reads. “Any educated person would know that hypnosis is completely harmless and you would not do anything you normally would not do under it.”
The Inquisitr reports that the $600,000 payout to the parents of the deceased students was the largest amount allowed without first getting specific approval from both the governor and the state legislature.