School District Settles After Three Students Die Following Hypnosis Sessions With Principal

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
 Brittany Palumbo, Marcus Freeman and Wesley McKinley Brittany Palumbo, Marcus Freeman and Wesley McKinley

Three students at North Port High School in North Port, Florida, died after being hypnotized by former Principal George Kenney, and now their families will each receive a $200,000 settlement from the Sarasota County School District.

The settlement was unanimously approved by the school district on Oct. 6, the Herald-Tribune reported.

All of the deaths occurred in 2011. In April of that year, 16-year-old Wesley McKinley killed himself the day after Kenney hypnotized him. Kenney also hypnotized 17-year-old Brittany Palumbo and 16-year-old Marcus Freeman; Palumbo took her own life, and Freeman was involved in a fatal car accident, allegedly after self-hypnotizing, which Kenney taught him.

Although there’s no established link between Kenney’s hypnosis sessions and the students’ deaths, Damian Mallard, an attorney for all of the families, said Kenney altered their minds.

“It’s something [the families] will never get over,” Mallard told the Herald-Tribune. "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.”

Kenney was charged with unlawful practice of hypnosis and pleaded no contest, NY Daily News reported. He resigned from his position as principal in 2012 and served one year of probation.

“The thing that is the most disappointing to [the families] is [Kenney] never apologized, never admitted wrong doing, and is now living comfortably in retirement in North Carolina with his pension,” Mallard said.

The settlement was approved a week before the parents’ civil case against the school district would have gone to trial. Mallard said the intent was to ensure something like this never happens again.

Kenney performed hypnosis on as many as 75 students and staff members between 2006 and 2011.

Sources: Herald-Tribune, NY Daily News / Photo credit: WTFS-TV via NY Daily News