A Florida school board agreed to pay $200,000 each to parents of three students who died after being hypnotized by a principal in 2011, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. George Kenney, a former principal of North Port High School in Sarasota County, was charged with two misdemeanors in 2012, including practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license, the report added.
Investigators found that Kenney hypnotized about 75 students, school staff and others from 2006 until April 2011, when 16-year-old Wesley McKinley committed suicide. Other two students who died were Brittany Palumbo and Marcus Freeman. Palumbo, 17, was found hanging in her closet about five months after Kenney hypnotized her, and Freeman, 16, died in a car accident after self-hypnotizing -- a method Kenney taught him -- in 2011, NBC News reported.
Kenney hypnotized one basketball player at school about 30 to 40 times in order to improve the student’s concentration, the AP reported, citing the player. Kenney pleaded no contest to practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license and resigned as principal in June 2012. He gave up his teaching license in 2013 after the Florida Department of Education pressured him. Kenney, who cannot reapply for another teaching license, reportedly served one year of probation, and his current whereabouts remain unclear.
The parents of the deceased students did not file the lawsuit for money, but to hold the school district liable and make sure such incidents do not occur again, Damian Mallard, an attorney representing the parents, told the AP.
"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," Mallard reportedly said. "He altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it."
Mallard also said that the parents were “not happy” about the fact that Kenney did not receive any punishment. "The thing that is the most disappointing to them is he never apologized, never admitted wrongdoing and is now living comfortably in retirement in North Carolina with his pension."
The families could not sue Kenney because school district employees are considered an extension of the School Board under the law. So, they sued the school district as it was the only option available to them.