A Louisiana Republican official and pastor has stepped down as headmaster of a Christian school following his second arrest in two months over alleged cruelty to children.
John Raymond, pastor of New Horizon Church in Slidell and elected member of the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee, was arrested by the Slidell Police Department on Monday and charged with second-degree cruelty to teenagers.
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 hitting his buttocks.
NOLA.com reported that the school sent a letter to parents and staff on Monday saying Raymond was taking voluntary leave.
Last month, Raymond was arrested on three counts of cruelty to teenagers after he was reported to have allegedly silenced three students as punishment for “talking excessively” a month earlier.
Since that arrest, other witnesses have come forward to report additional incidents, some of which date back to 2017, according to a police department news release.
There were several reported incidents involving a Pre-K student. Police said the child sometimes had “tantrums” where he cries and screams. To prevent the boy from doing so on one occasion, Raymond allegedly placed his hand on the child’s nose and mouth until he became paralyzed.
According to police, a member of staff asked Raymond to stop after seeing that the boy was having difficulty breathing and was unable to stand. In another incident, the child was dragged to the floor by his ankles after refusing to accompany Raymond.
Police said their investigation was ongoing as they interviewed additional witnesses related to other charges against Raymond. He was released on Monday on a bond of $7,500.
After last month’s incident, Raymond defended himself in a statement on the school’s website. He argued that he gave disruptive students a choice: “We can either go downstairs and call your parents and wait for you to be suspended in the lobby, or you can tape your mouth And can learn how to be quiet during class.”
“All the students chose the tape and I took out one piece at a time and carefully placed it over their mouth to make sure it didn’t touch their nose or interfere with their breathing. The tape was not wrapped around his 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.