Before you read this post, you might want to read my post on why sensational stories such as this are almost always untrue. The context is perfect.
In Florida, a school board paid settlements of $200,000 apiece to the families of three students who died after being hypnotized by their principal. (In this context, “after” does not mean immediately after.) Two students committed suicide and a third ran his car off the road after getting a strange look on his face, according to his girlfriend who survived the crash.
The principal in question had hypnotized 75 kids for various reasons. The other 72 kids did not try to kill themselves as far as we know.
You might be wondering what I think of that situation, given that I am a trained hypnotist. Answer: 100% bullshit.
A Florida school board confused hypnosis with witchcraft. Literally.
Rule number one in hypnosis is that it is impossible to convince people to hurt themselves, or others, with hypnosis. A hypnotized subject is ALWAYS in their normal mind, just relaxed and going with the flow. There is no such thing as a hypnotic state where the subject can’t control himself. If I hypnotize you and hand you a weapon to use on yourself, you will laugh and hand it back, the same as if you were not hypnotized.
Hypnosis can’t convince a subject to harm himself or others. Researchers have tried that very thing and failed on lots of occasions.
The wrinkle in that sort of test is that if I hypnotize you and hand you a gun, you might assume the gun is a toy because no reasonable person would hand you a loaded gun and ask you to use it. So there might be some confusion involved, but no hypnotized subject would consider suicide or murder as a result of hypnosis sessions. That just isn’t a thing.
The principal pleaded no contest, but he knows he is 100% innocent, and indeed was probably going the extra mile to be helpful. You don’t hypnotize that many kids unless the word-of-mouth is good. The principal was probably helping a lot of kids cope. Hypnosis is an excellent tool for that sort of thing.
Three deaths in one high school does seem excessive. But ask yourself what kinds of kids ask adults for mind-related help. I would think the troubled teens would be at the front of the line. It should not be surprising that those 75 kids had more problems than the average. Still, three deaths in a short period does seem like a big coincidence.
But coincidences happen. You don’t hear about them unless you have a principal accused of witchcraft. That is essentially what happened here since only magic would produce the results in question. Hypnosis would not. Ever. And certainly not three times.
Why does the school board suspect hypnosis was part of the problem? Because three deaths in a short window is an unlikely event.
Why do I know the principal is 100% innocent? Because a hypnotist killing three kids is a far less likely event, essentially impossible. People die in clusters every day, by chance. But no hypnotist has ever caused a person to harm himself or others. I can imagine no scenario in which a hypnotist is helping a basketball player learn to relax at the free throw line and accidentally convinces the subject to kill himself next week.
It just isn’t a thing.
You might wonder why a skilled hypnotist would walk away from this sort of situation instead of hypnotizing the board to give him a parade and a big raise. The answer is that too many people are involved. It is an uncontrolled environment. His skills would be useless against the angry villagers with pitchforks, and it sounds like that was the situation. In his situation, I too would have pled no contest and walked away. The money is being paid by the school district, not the principal.
The ex-principal’s name is George Kenney. I only mention his name for the benefit of search engines. If you are reading this because you are considering hiring Mr. Kenney, or you wonder if he is safe around kids, let me say as clearly as I can that he was a scapegoat for a coincidental set of tragedies. Hypnosis – by its very nature – could not have been part of the problem. Mr. Kenney is a victim in this case. I say this with certainty.