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Three students were 'hypnotised to death' by their school principal in Florida

The students died by suicide after their principal gave them hypnosis therapy.

Source: CBS This Morning/YouTube

THE FAMILIES OF three Florida high school students who died after being hypnotised by a former principal will receive $200,000 each in compensation.

The Herald-Tribune reports that the $600,000 settlement closes a bizarre, years long case that began after former North Port High School Principal George Kenney admitted that he hypnotised 16-year-old Wesley McKinley a day before the teenager killed himself in April 2011.

A subsequent investigation found that Kenney hypnotised as many as 75 students, staff members and others from 2006 until McKinley’s death. One basketball player at the school said Kenney hypnotised him 30 to 40 times to improve his concentration.

Among those who were hypnotised were 17-year-old Brittany Palumbo and 16-year-old Marcus Freeman. Palumbo killed herself in 2011.

PastedImage-95873 Brittany Palumbo died by suicide after being taught hypnotism techniques by her principal. Source: Youtube/CBS This Morning

Freeman died after his car plunged off a motorway after apparently self-hypnotising, a technique Kenney taught the teenager, also in 2011.

Palumbo’s parents told CBS News that the 16-year-old went to Kenney for college guidance when he suggested the hypnotism to deal with anxiety.

“George Kenney told her at the time he believed she had test anxiety and he could help her with that anxiety,” Patricia Palumbo told CBS.

A few months later the teenager took her own life

“What I believe happened is my daughter went into her room that night and she blinked her eyes rapidly and she entered a calm and relaxed state that allowed her to go through what she went through,” the mother,” the grieving mother explained.

PastedImage-70162 Marcus Freeman is believed to have died after he drove his car off the motorway. Source: Youtube/CBS This Morning

School Board Attorney Art Hardy said after the board approved the compensation agreement on a 4-0 vote that members were “just happy to put this behind them.”

Damian Mallard, an attorney representing the families of McKinley, Palumbo and Freeman, said the parents did not sue for money, but to hold the school district accountable and to ensure something similar does not happen again.

“It’s something they will never get over. 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,” Mallard said.

“He altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it.”

Mallard said the families and the district reached a settlement agreement Oct. 1 as the case was nearing a trial.

PastedImage-60640 Kenney is believed to have hypnotised as many as 75 students, staff members and others. Source: Youtube/CBS

Kenney was placed on administrative leave in May 2011 before he resigned in June 2012.

He was charged with two misdemeanours in 2012, including practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license.

He entered a plea of no contest as part of a deal that saw him serve one year of probation, during which he was not allowed to practice unlicensed hypnosis.

Kenney gave up his teaching license in 2013 under pressure from the Florida Department of Education and cannot reapply for another.

“They’re not happy about” Kenney’s lack of punishment, Mallard said of the students’ families.

“The thing that is the most disappointing to them is he never apologised, never admitted wrongdoing and is now living comfortably in retirement in North Carolina with his pension.”

The families could not sue Kenney himself because school district employees are considered an extension of the School Board under the law. The only entity families could sue was the school district.

Mallard noted that the $200,000 awarded to each family is the maximum any Florida government agency can pay without getting special approval from the governor.

- With reporting from Rónán Duffy

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