Pastor John Raymond, a one-time Survivor contestant and former Republican candidate for the Louisiana House, was arrested last week and charged with three counts of cruelty to juveniles after taping children’s mouths shut for talking too much in class, The Washington Post reported. The incident took place on March 17, but Raymond was not arrested until Thursday after police investigated the issue and he turned himself in.
Raymond defended his actions Monday as the founder and headmaster of a Slidell, Louisiana, Christian academy. A teacher was allegedly being bullied by the students, to which Raymond reacted and gave them “two choices.” He claimed the teacher’s eyes were “swollen from crying and her voice trembling” in a personal statement posted to the school’s website on Sunday.
He added that since the start of the school year, he has had to address the seventh-grade class the students were a part of multiple times for “behavioral problems, particularly with three of the five students involved in this incident who consistently showed complete disregard for the teacher’s authority.”
Raymond defended his actions, claiming that it was a part of consensual disciplinary action as a result of the children bullying their teacher.
“We can either go downstairs and call your parents and you can wait in the lobby to be suspended, or you can get tape on your mouth and learn how to be quiet during class,” Raymond said he told the group before taping their mouths. The students allegedly asked to have their mouths taped shut.
Raymond’s personal statement came days after the Slidell Police Department announced his arrest, after a complaint of potential child abuse from the Department of Children and Family Services. Following police investigations, the parents of three of the students opted to press charges.
According to Raymond’s statement, the others were apparently in support of Raymond’s punishment.
“We love all of our students at Lakeside and strive to maintain a safe and effective learning environment,” he said. “Building character in teenage boys can be difficult.”
According to police, the students spent about 45 minutes with tape wrapped around their heads that covered their mouths.
“Due to the fact the tape was wrapped around the students’ head, it had to be removed with a pair of scissors,” police said in a news release. “During the encounter, the students claim they had trouble breathing and that the removal process was painful.”
But despite investigations proving that the tape impacted the children’s breathing, Raymond claimed the act was voluntary and did not “interfere with their breathing.”
“The students all chose tape and I pulled off one piece at a time and carefully placed it over their mouths making sure that it did not touch their nose or interfere with their breathing,” he said. “At no time was tape wrapped around any student’s head.”
“After the tape was applied, I asked all the students, ‘Are any of you in pain or hurting in any way?’ They unanimously shook their heads no. I asked, ‘Can you all breathe normally?’ They unanimously shook their heads yes. At any time, the students could have easily removed the tape by simply pulling it off.”
The children made victim to the abuse were all under the age of 17. According to police, three of the victims were 13 years old.
In addition to being involved as a pastor at the Christian school, Raymond is also an elected member of the Louisiana Republican Party governing board, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported.
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