By William McGuinness
NORTH PORT, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — North Port police have charged the town’s high school principal with two counts of second-degree criminal misdemeanors after students he hypnotized ended up committing suicide.
Over six months, the North Port Police Department conducted around 70 interviews with students claiming to have been hypnotized by Dr. George Kenney and 100 adults either from among the school’s staff or parent community after receiving a complaint from the Florida Department of Health Services.
In documents provided to CBS Tampa detailing the Sarasota School Department’s internal investigation, Kenney routinely hypnotized students in one-on-one sessions and in group settings. They often involved the school athletics teams or ROTC programs.
Kenney told investigators it allowed students to relax, improved their performance in tests and helped some with anger issues.
Documents show, however, that Kenney occasionally raised tempers and eyebrows within the school’s community.
He was limited to hypnotizing students during psychology classes and then only with parent-signed permission slips and another teacher in the classroom — conditions insisted upon in 2009 by Steven Cantes, executive director of high schools for the Sarasota County School System.
Kenney’s many supporters expressed gratitude for his help and admiration of his character throughout the report.
They were not enough, however, when Kenney eventually admitted to hypnotizing two students who committed suicide shortly after one-on-one sessions that were explicitly against Cantes’ orders.
Kenney was placed on administrative leave following the 2011 school year.
“I’ll do anything to help my students succeed,” Kenney told investigators.
Police said he went far enough to break to law and now faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
He submitted a letter announcing his retirement in December. Contrary to other reports, he has not resigned, according to Sarasota schools spokesman Scott Ferguson.
Ferguson added that Kenney was reassigned from his position at the school and will use accumulated vacation time. His last day will be in March, though his contract expires in June.
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