A Florida high school principal is under fire for hypnotizing several of his students. The actions came to light after one of his students committed suicide, although there is no proof of the connection between hypnosis and the suicide other than certain derogatory elements of the public stereotype of hypnosis.
The principal, Dr. George Kenney, from the news reports, is no amateur regarding hypnosis: he wrote four books on using hypnosis for various student-related problems including test anxiety and sports performance, and on at least two reported occasions hypnotized students with their parents' consent. Kenney's credentials seem very legitimate, as he learned hypnosis at the Omni Hypnosis Training Center in DeLand, Fla.
Still, the controversy fuels the public misconceptions of hypnosis in a largely negative way, and thus the subject itself is a victim, as well.
First off, while he may have done so for the most innocent of reasons and purposes, still the perception remains that he may (and I repeat may) have done so on minors especially without the permission of their parents or guardians. In many jurisdictions, that is illegal and could very well even be termed criminal assault. That said, according to the news reports, in the case of the student who committed suicide, his parents did give the principal permission, to help the student deal with test anxiety. He is under police investigation based on a 1961 law that prohibits the practice of therapeutic hypnosis by lay hypnotists without the supervision of a medical professional. Kenney faces a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if convicted.
Secondly, he did so despite the explicit injunction by the school board against such actions. Why the board made such a move, and that it is reported that Dr. Kenney lied about such actions, does not bode well for him and the subject of hypnosis in general.
However, what I find slightly troubling is the 50-year old law against lay hypnosis which does not acknowledge the present state of hypnosis as it is practiced today. I also have to wonder how often such a law has been applied in recent years.