NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — High school principal George Kenney acknowledged using hypnosis to help people: students who needed to relax before tests, a basketball player having trouble making free throws and even school secretaries who wanted to quit smoking.
But now the popular 51-year-old principal’s future at North Port High School is in question since it came to light that he had hypnotized two students before their separate suicides this spring. There is no indication their deaths were any more than a tragic coincidence. However, Kenney acknowledged conducting the sessions after being warned by his boss to stop such one-on-one hypnosis with students at school. In April, according to the Sarasota County School District report, he hypnotized a 16-year-old student to help him better focus on a test. The next day, the boy committed suicide. Kenney was put on leave in May when the boy’s parents, who had given their permission for the sessions, raised concerns after his death.
The administrator’s situation then got stickier when an investigation showed that he had also hypnotized another student five months before her May 4 suicide, initially lied about it and had defied three separate verbal warnings to stop the sessions with students.
A 134-page independent investigative report released by the district last week includes an interview with Kenney, who acknowledged defying the orders and then lying.
“I’m not saying I used great judgment all the time here,” he told an investigator. “I think I used poor judgment several times.”
Poor judgment would be an understatement, sheesh.