Families plan lawsuit; blame hypnosis for deaths - FOX 13 News

Families plan lawsuit; blame hypnosis for deaths

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Dr. George Kenney Dr. George Kenney

The families of three students are planning to sue the Sarasota County School Board for negligence after their deaths.

Back in 2011, Wesley McKinley, Brittany Palumbo and Marcus Freeman all died. McKinley and Palumbo committed suicide while Freeman was in a car accident.

Their families blame the principal, Dr. George Kenney.

It was common knowledge Principal Kenney was hypnotizing students in school. Originally it started as a demonstration in psychology class. But Dr. Kenney said he then began helping students individually to better test scores or perform in athletics.

Wesley McKinley was hypnotized on April 7, 2011. On April 8, he committed suicide.

Brittany Palumbo was hypnotized in October 2010. On May 4, 2011, Brittany committed suicide.

During the 2010-2011 school year, Marcus Freeman was hypnotized to control pain associated with being a football player. The school's investigation found Dr. Kenney also taught him self-hypnosis to deal with pain.

On March 15, 2011, Freeman went to a dentist appointment. His girlfriend said when he came out he was pale and spoke very slowly. While driving home, she said Marcus appeared to be in a trance. He suddenly became quiet, his arms straightened, his eyes froze and rolled back in his head. The vehicle veered off the road and crashed, killing Freeman.

The lawsuit says each death can be attributed to Principal Kenney's hypnosis. It goes on to say the Sarasota County School Board knew Dr. Kenney was hypnotizing the students and took no action to supervise, monitor, inquire, or ensure that Dr. Kenney was limited to the demonstration as he had been instructed.

Dr. Kenney is no longer with the district. He retired in 2011 and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor of practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license.

He was sentenced to one year of probation but was granted early termination of that probation after completing the terms.

He no longer lives in Florida.

The families will hold a news conference Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.


On Wednesday, the Sarasota school district released this response:

"The superintendent and administration of the Sarasota County School District are sympathetic to the suffering of the families in North Port over the deaths of their children.  We do not believe, however, that the actions of either the School Board or any of its employees caused these tragic events to occur

When it is served with the complaint, the district will respond through its attorneys.  The District does not believe any further public comment is appropriate and will refrain from making any further public statements regarding pending litigation."

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