Three parents whose children died shortly after undergoing hypnosis sessions with then North Port High School principal George Kenney have sued the Sarasota County School District.
Two of the students, Wesley McKinley, 16, and Brittany Palumbo, 17, committed suicide.
The third student, Marcus Freeman, 16, died in a car crash reportedly while doing self hypnosis that he'd been taught by Kenney.
Attorney Damian Mallard said today: "All three were victimized by a school system that permitted an unqualified and unlicensed principal to hypnotize these students under the guise of helping them."
An internal report by the school system revealed Kenney defied three separate orders to stop hypnotizing students in individual sessions, and later lied when questioned by a school administrator about his use of hypnosis.
Kenney has since resigned.
Parent Patricia Palumbo said "There is a protocol the school board should have followed with a verbal warning, a written warning and then some kind of action after that. On the third occasion, that protocol was never followed."
Marcus Freeman's parents said they signed a consent form for the hypnosis sessions under the belief they were sanctioned by the school board.
Sarasota County school board officials said they couldn't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but issued a statement.
"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."
The school system has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
Mallard says he hopes to reach some kind of settlement rather than going to trial.
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