Four years after one of its principals hypnotized dozens of high school students, three of whom died within days, a Florida school district has agreed to pay $600,000 to the deceased teenager’s families.
The Herald Tribune reports that, earlier this year, former North Port High School principal George Kenney admitted to hypnotizing a 16-year-old student named Wesley McKinley the day before McKinley’s suicide. Following his admission, an investigation by the Sarasota County School District revealed that in 2011 Kenney hypnotized at least 75 people at the school, including students and staff. Two of those students, 17-year-old Brittany Palumbo and 16-year-old Marcus Freeman, died later that year, Palumbo from suicide and Freeman in a car accident, bringing the hypnotism-associated number of deaths to three.
Kenney hypnotized Freeman, a quarterback for the North Port High football team, to help him concentrate and not worry about pain during games, according to court documents. Kenney began to teach Freeman how to hypnotize himself.
After a painful dentist visit on March 15, 2011, Freeman drove home with his girlfriend. His girlfriend said that during the ride Freeman got a strange look on his face and veered off of Interstate 75 near Toledo Blade Boulevard. Freeman later died from his injuries; his girlfriend survived.
McKinley was found hanging outside his home less than a month later on April 8. His friend Thomas Lyle said in a deposition for the case that McKinley was hypnotized by Kenney at least three times, including on the day he died. McKinley wanted to do better with his guitar practice for his audition with the Julliard School of the Arts, Lyle said. When McKinley would get on the school bus after sessions, sometimes he wouldn’t know his name, Lyle said. McKinley would ask who his friends were. The same day McKinley died, he asked Lyle to punch him in the face, the records stated.
Palumbo also hanged herself, reportedly sometime after Kenney hypnotized her in an attempt to help her SAT scores.
Kenney, who resigned the following school year and now reportedly runs a bed-and-breakfast in North Carolina, was charged with two misdemeanors in 2012; he pleaded no contest to both and served a year of probation, during which he was forbidden from practicing hypnosis. The $200,000 awarded to each family is the maximum a Florida government agency can pay without special approval.
“It’s something they will never get over,” Damian Mallard, an attorney representing all three families, said Tuesday. “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. He altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it.”
h/t New York Daily News