NORTH PORT, Fla. - A Southwest Florida principal is under investigation after a student he hypnotized committed suicide. North Port Principal Dr. George Kenney is on paid administrative leave as school officials try to figure out if hypnosis is to blame.
Meanwhile, students and parents are asking the School Board to bring Dr. Kenney back. Some say he had nothing to do with the unfortunate tragedy.
North Port senior Kasey Wilson is headed to the University of Central Florida on a full basketball scholarship. It's a feat he said he couldn't have achieved without the help of his Dr. Kenney, a Certified Hypnotist.
"I'm not a really good free throw shooter, so he's helped me with that, my ACT scores, they went up," Wilson said.
Kasey is one of several students who, with parental consent, had one-on-one hypnosis sessions with Kenney to gain better focus, on the court and in the classroom.
"He would just sit me down, breathe in and out, and close your eyes, and he just talks to you," Wilson said. "You're just really relaxed to a state you've really never been before, and you feel real comfortable."
"He gave us the call word," senior Eddie Moore Jr. III said, "so when Coach Allen said the call word, we were supposed to get focused, dialed in."
But last month, 16 year-old Wesley McKinley also had a session. The next day, he committed suicide. Though he had parental consent, the district says these sessions were unauthorized by the district, and for now, Kenney is on paid administrative leave while they investigate whether hypnosis is to blame for the student's death.
"There's been allegations he used inappropriate counseling techniques with students," Sarasota School District Communications Director Gary Leatherman said. "The important thing is that there is no proof he's done anything wrong. It's just a routine process"
Through Facebook groups and gatherings, students say they stand behind their principal, and they want him back.
"Everybody's just shocked and in awe because they weren't expecting something like a beloved principal at the school to be getting in trouble for something he had no control over," junior Michael Jones said.
Wesley McKinley's mother tells us her son didn't show any depressed or suicidal tendencies, which is why she wonders if the hypnosis is to blame. His girlfriend at the time said the same, and although she doesn't blame Dr. Kenney, said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For now, the district is investigating to see if any further action needs to be taken.