Report Details How One Principal Hypnotized Students For Years : The Two-Way A Sarasota, Fla. school district began investigating after the principal admitted he had hypnotized a student a day before he committed suicide. Two other students, who died months apart, were also hypnotized by the principal.
NPR logo Report Details How One Principal Hypnotized Students For Years

Report Details How One Principal Hypnotized Students For Years

A school district in Florida just released a 130 page report that details how one high school principal hypnotized between 70 and 75 students since 2006.

The school district began investigating Dr. George Kenney, the former principal at North Port High School in Sarasota, after he admitted that he had hypnotized Wesley McKinley, 16, a day before he killed himself in April.

According to ABC News, investigators say Kenney now admits that he had hypnotized two other students who died within a month of McKinley.

ABC News reports:

[Kenney] had denied using the technique on Brittany Palumbo, 16, who killed herself May 4, or Marcus Freeman, 16, a star quarterback on the high school team, who died in a car crash March 15.

"Dr. Kenney admitted that he lied ... and he admitted that he did have sessions with both of the other deceased students," according to the report by Steele Investigations Agency, released this week.

In his interview with the investigators, Kenney, a popular principal at the school since 2001, said he felt terrible about "putting his school and his students through something that they didn't need or deserve to have to endure on top of all the tragedy they already have experienced" and started to cry, the report says.

Tampa Bay's Fox 13 reports that Kenney's hypnosis sessions were well known and widespread. Kenney would hypnotize students to help with their test scores and athletic performance. Fox 13 reports that Kenney always sought parental consent. In 2009, the report says his supervisor told him he could only perform hypnosis in a psychology class, but Kenney continued doing it because he said he was never told to stop.

Fox 13 says no one is linking the hypnosis with the deaths of the students, but The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the school district put Kenney on leave in May pending an investigation into whether he broke the law when he hypnotized students.

The Herald Tribune reports that "therapeutic" hypnosis is against the law the in Florida, unless it is monitored or conducted by a medical professional. But it's unlikely that Kenney will face prosecution, because the law is vague and "rarely used" since it was enacted in 1961.

The Herald Tribune reports:

Bradenton lawyer Mark Lipinski said the statute lacks the crucial definition of "therapeutic," leaving investigators with only its broad dictionary definition.

"The law is obscure, vague and unenforceable," he said. "I honestly just don't see a crime and any case would be a stretch, in my opinion."