Families sue Sarasota County Schools for the death of their children

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Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 6:42 pm | Updated: 9:18 pm, Thu Jan 3, 2013.

NORTH PORT, FL-- Three North Port families are coming together, suing the Sarasota County School District for what they say is the wrongful death of their children.  All three students underwent hypnosis sessions with former North Port High School principal George Kenney, and sadly, all three died shortly after those sessions.

Two of the students committed suicide shortly after being hypnotized. The third died in a car accident, possibly after practicing self-hypnosis techniques his family says he learned from Dr. Kenney.

At a press conference Wednesday, the families' attorney announced the filing of three wrongful death lawsuits, each holding the school district accountable for allowing Kenney to practice hypnosis on students.

At 16, most kids are making plans for the future. “She had big dreams and she worked so hard. I have never seen a child work harder on her goals and her focus to go to college,” says Patricia Palumbo, who's daughter Brittany passed away.

But now, all these three families have are the memories of those plans. They say their children all received hypnosis treatments from North Port High School principal George Kenney, under the premise it would make them a better athlete, musician, or scholar. But 17 year old Brittany Palumbo took her own life just one month before graduating. “The night before she passed away, she actually sent in her application for college. Two hours before this happened, she had gone to the store to buy some makeup. We never saw this coming,” says Palumbo.

16-year-old Wesley McKinlay took his own life one month before auditioning for Julliard. “He was a self-taught musician, he taught himself how to play the piano and guitar, and was in line to have an audition at Julliard. the next month,” says Peggy McKinlay.

And 16-year-old Marcus Freeman died in a car accident after he potentially practiced self hypnosis, which his family says principal George Kenney taught him. “He had his whole life ahead of him.  He wanted to be a Gator.  That was his whole goal in life, to be a Gator.  And to have that tragically taken away from him is ridiculous,” says Dana Freeman.

Now these families are forever connected, and they say their only goal now is to protect other students in Sarasota County schools. “The families want to stress that this is about accountability for these families for the negligence of the principal and the school board who allowed him to engage in hypnotism. The principal should've been educating students not hypnotizing them,” says attorney  Damian Mallard.

The Sarasota County School District issued a statement saying the district is sympathetic to the suffering families in North Port who lost their children. However, it goes on to say that the district does not believe the actions of either the school board or its employees caused the tragic events to occur.

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