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Slidell school leader admits to taping students' mouths, but said they were not harmed

Pastor John Raymond is accused of using packing tape to tape shut the mouths of three students who were allegedly talking too much.

SLIDELL, La. — The headmaster of Lakeside Christian School in Slidell has been arrested on three counts of child cruelty for allegedly taping shut the mouth of three of his students.

Pastor John Raymond, 60, is accused of bringing three students, who were said to be talking too much in class, to his office on March 18.

Raymond is also a past contestant on the television "reality" show Survivor. 

Slidell Police said that interviews of students as well as parents and faculty at Lakeside Christian, led them to conclude that Raymond became angry and at some point used packing tape to tape the students’ mouths shut by wrapping it around their heads.

Police said that Raymond then sent the children back to class with their mouths shut and that lasted for about 45 minutes until another school administrator began feeling uncomfortable about the situation and used scissors to remove the tape.

Police said the students complained they had trouble breathing while their mouths were taped and that having the tape removed was painful.

Detectives presented their evidence to a judge Thursday morning and a few hours later Raymond turned himself in to police.

He was booked into the Slidell City Jail for three counts of cruelty to juveniles.

In a lengthy statement posted on the school's website, Raymond said that he gave several students the option to put clear Scotch tape over their mouths or that he was going to call their parents and they would be suspended. 

"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," Raymond wrote. "At no time was the tape wrapped around any students head."

Raymond said after applying the tape, he asked each student if they were in pain and could breathe normally. He said that a principal told him that she was uncomfortable with the action, and the tape was removed "in under ten minutes."

"We have a zero-tolerance bully policy at Lakeside," Raymond wrote. "This means students cannot bully each other or bully the teachers. We are serious about protecting both our students and our teachers."

"These students were given a choice between suspension and temporary tape. They were never in any physical pain. Their breathing was never impaired. The tape was never wrapped around their heads. And it was off in under 10 minutes. No student was ever treated with cruelty or harmed in any way," he added.

Louisiana Rep. Mary DuBuisson, who represents the area, said several people contacted her when the news broke.

"Prayers for these children in that they can get through this horrific event," DuBuisson said. "Because you can say it's taping the mouth shut, but we know all know it's more than that. Just the embarrassment and the trauma."

Raymond has challenged DuBuisson for her seat in the Louisiana house twice. He is currently a member of the area's Republican Executive Committee.

"I'd like to think that there will be some actions in the near future, and I guess everything just has to run its course," DuBuisson said.

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