A Louisiana Republican official and pastor has stepped back from his post as headmaster of a Christian school after his second arrest in two months over alleged cruelty to children.
John Raymond, pastor of Slidell’s New Horizon church and an elected member of the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee, was arrested Monday by the Slidell Police Department and charged with second degree cruelty to juveniles.
The arrest stems from an incident at Lakeside Christian Academy, a kindergarten through 12th grade school that he founded and led. Raymond is accused of abusing a 4-year-old pre-K student on multiple occasions, including holding him upside down by the ankles and repeatedly whipping him on the buttocks.
The school sent a letter to parents and staff Monday saying that Raymond was taking a voluntary leave of absence, NOLA.com reported.
Last month, Raymond was arrested on three counts of cruelty to juveniles after he was reported for allegedly taping three students’ mouths shut as punishment for “excessive talking” the month before.
Since that arrest, other witnesses have come forward to report additional incidents, some dating as far back as 2017, according to a news release from the police department.
There were several reported incidents involving the pre-K student. Police said the child would sometimes have “tantrums” where he would cry and scream. To prevent the boy from doing so on one occasion, Raymond allegedly placed his hand over the child’s nose and mouth until he went limp.
According to police, a staff member told Raymond to stop after observing the boy was having difficulty breathing and was unable to stand. In another incident, the child was allegedly dragged across a floor by his ankles after he refused to leave with Raymond.
Police said their investigation was ongoing as they interviewed additional witnesses linked to other allegations against Raymond. He was released Monday on a $7,500 bond.
After last month’s incident, Raymond defended himself in a statement on the school’s website. He argued that he gave the disruptive students a choice: “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.”
“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. At no time was tape wrapped around any student’s head,” he wrote.
Raymond is also a member of the Republican State Central Committee, the governing body of the Louisiana Republican Party. In 2018, he ran unsuccessfully for the Louisiana House of Representatives.