A Christian school headmaster accused of taping shut the mouths of seventh-graders says he was only "building character." The parents of three of five students at Lakeside Christian Academy in Slidell, La., opted to press charges, meaning Pastor John Raymond is now facing three counts of cruelty to children. In a statement defending his actions, shared Sunday, the school's founder and headmaster described his March 18 meeting with five students whose teacher complained that they talked during lessons, per the Washington Post. Raymond, 60, said he gave the students a choice between suspension or getting tape over their mouths so they could "learn how to be quiet during class."
They chose the latter option, according to Raymond—a former Survivor contestant who unsuccessfully ran for the state House in 2018, leaning "heavily on his support of President Donald Trump and his opposition to gay marriage," per NOLA.com. He said he proceeded to cover each of their mouths with pieces of clear packing tape. "I told them, 'I love you, but this has been going on all year and it has to stop immediately,'" Raymond wrote. He said the boys confirmed they were not in pain and could breathe normally, adding the tape was "gently" removed after no more than 10 minutes. Police disagree, saying the 13-year-olds described breathing trouble over 45 minutes spent with tape wrapped around their heads, WIAT reports.
“Building character in teenage boys can be difficult," Raymond continued, noting he'd repeatedly addressed the class in response to "behavioral problems, particularly with three of the five students involved in this incident who consistently showed complete disregard for the teacher's authority." He added the teacher came to him on March 17 with "her eyes swollen from crying and her voice trembling" and was on the verge of resigning. "We love all of our students at Lakeside and strive to maintain a safe and effective learning environment," he added, noting two sets of parents "are completely supportive of the discipline that took place." Raymond turned himself in on Thursday. (Read more child cruelty stories.)