North Port, Florida - Sixteen-year-old Wesley McKinley's suicide on April 8 is raising questions about what happened one day after his principal, Dr. George Kenney, hypnotized him.
"They're blaming him for his death," says Bianca Cannon a senior at North Port High School.
"He was doing it for good, not telling Wesley to harm himself," explains student Danielle Leopold.
Students say Kenney, a certified hypnotist and author, helps a lot.
"It's no big deal. He does it for kids that need help with exams and the stress of school. A lot of seniors do it, it helps them with finals," says Bianca.
"The students love him, the parents love him, and the staff loves him. He's a great guy. He's always been a good example and done wonderful things for the school," says Gary Leatherman, Communications director for the Sarasota School District.
Sarasota school district officials say the North Port High School principal is on paid administrative leave while it investigates. Leatherman says, "There's no presumption Dr. Kenney has done anything wrong. He's not being disciplined, he's not being suspended."
In a written statement, Sarasota School superintendent Lori White says Kenney's techniques "are outside the scope of normally accepted student counseling practices and is cause for serious concern."
Some students say Principal Kenney has been hypnotizing students for a couple of years, either in a classroom group setting or individually one-on-one. But school district officials say, while they were aware of Kenney's technique, his permission had limited use."
"He was authorized to demonstrate in psychology class with parent permission," says Leatherman.
Kenney reportedly had permission from Wesley's parents to use hypnosis on their son.
"It's ridiculous to hold him responsible, to say because that child was hypnotized [and] he killed himself, that's just wrong," says parent Vincent Giacinto.
A group of students held a protest Wednesday morning, showing support for Kenney and asking he return to work. They want Kenney to attend their graduation on June 4th.
The school district has not decided who will do the investigation -- if it will be handled by someone inside or outside the district offices.
10 News tried getting a hold of Principal Kenney and Wesley McKinley's parents, but our calls have not been returned.
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