Independent agency now investigating principal's use of hypnosis - FOX 13 News

Independent agency now investigating principal's use of hypnosis

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New details are emerging in the case of a high school principal put on leave after it emerged he had hypnotized students, and one of those students committed suicide.

Dr. George Kenney, principal at North Port High, has been placed on administrative leave.

Some students are lining up to support Dr. Kenney, while others say they will leave the school if he stays on. Here is a look at both sides of a divided student body.

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As a 6'7" Power Forward, Kasey Wilson is ready to graduate and head off to UCF, on a basketball scholarship.

The North Port High School senior ends his high school career, on a high note. His free throw percentage has improved; so did his scores on the ACT.

Wilson feels he owes part of his success to his principal, George Kenney. He says Dr. Kenney helped him focus this year through hypnosis.

"He'd just relax you, sit you down, close your eyes, count to ten. Breathe in and out, and just talk you through it.

Kasey did several relaxation sessions with Dr. Kenney. Many of them were right on the basketball court, before a game.

Kasey's father, Brett Wilson said he ok'd it, after researching hypnosis on athletes and deciding it could help his son.

And he says it has.

"He's not being put down, where he could have, be influenced. It's more of a focusing technique," he said.

The family thinks the school board is overreacting. They say those against Dr. Kenney don't understand hypnosis.

On Thursday, students started a petition at school. They will send it to Superintendent White, asking to bring Dr. Kenney back.

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But there are other students who feel Dr. Kenney crossed a line.

Some students say they were hypnotized by Dr. Kenney and their parents didn't know it.

Josh Sandefur and Thomas Lyle say they attended a session, on an ROTC trip.

"We all sat around and he said imagine you're going into a dark tunnel. and you see a beautiful scene. you go deeper, deeper," Lyle described.

Both Josh and Thomas say it didn't work on them, and both say their parents did not know they did it.

Jackie DeChambre is Josh's grandmother. She describes Josh's mom's reaction.

"She said when did I ever sign a permission slip? And he said you didn't. All you have to do is give the indication that you have the desire to participate in one of the sessions and he'll do it, permission slip or not," DeChambre said.

The school district is launching an investigation, so they won't comment.

Thomas Lyle was best friends with Wes McKinley, the 16 year old who committed suicide a day after being in one of the hypnosis sessions.

Many say there is no link between the suicide and the hypnosis. But still some students say if Dr. Kenney comes back to school -- they won't.

"If he comes back, I'm going to have to switch schools. but if he doesn't, i'll be back at North Port," Sandefur said.

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In another development, FOX 13 News has learned that an independent agency based in Bradenton has been brought in to investigate Kenney's use of hypnosis in one-on-one student counseling sessions.

The Steele Investigation Agency will conduct an investigation lasting a few weeks.

Kenney has been principal of North Port High School since 2001. He is a certified hypnotist, and has been doing hypnosis demonstrations in classes for at least four years now.

He gets parents' permission, but the district says it had no idea he'd been hypnotizing students in one-on-one sessions.

Then, on April 8, 16-year-old Wesley McKinley killed himself, and rumors started in school that it had to do with hypnosis.

Students say Kenney has been using hypnosis techniques on them for years, at their request, and with their parents' permission.
 

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