'Survivor' Alum John Raymond Hit With Child Cruelty Charges

Former Survivor contestant Pastor John Raymond is facing child cruelty charges following an incident involving students at the school where he is the headmaster. Raymond, who was the first to be voted off on Survivor: Thailand in 2002, was arrested on March 18 and booked on three counts of child cruelty after he allegedly taped shut the mouths of three of his students at Lakeside Christian School.

According to a statement from Slidell Police, an investigation was launched after the department received a complaint from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in March about potential child abuse at the school. After conducting interviews with students, parents, and faculty, it was concluded that on March 18, Raymond used packing tape to tape shut the mouths of several students who were removed from a class due to excessive talking. Raymond, who was said to be "angry," brought the students to his office, where he "took a roll of packing tape and taped the students' mouths shut by wrapping the tape around their heads" before sending them back to class. The students remained in class with the tape over their mouths for approximately 45 minutes before another school administrator "felt uncomfortable with the situation" and removed the tape. According to authorities, "due to the fact the tape was wrapped around the students' head, it had to be removed with a pair of scissors. During the encounter, the students claim they had trouble breathing and that the removal process was painful."

Following the investigation, a warrant was issued for Raymond's arrest on April 7. Raymond turned himself in to police later that day and was booked into the Slidell City Jail for three counts of Cruelty to Juveniles. He was set to be transported to the St. Tammany Parish Jail where Slidell Police said a bond would be set.

In a statement addressing the accusations, Raymond confirmed that the incident took place, though he disagreed with some of the findings reported by the Slidell Police's investigation. While Raymond said he did place tape over three students' mouths, he denied that the tape was wrapped around their heads. Raymond said that the students involved in the incident showed "repeated disruptive behavior and "consistently showed complete disregard for the teacher's authority." Raymond said he led the students to the upstairs hallway, stating that "at no point were the students ever in my office." Raymond said he gave the students the choice of being suspended or to put tape over their mouths.

"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," Raymond wrote. "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."

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Raymond said the tape "could not have been applied for more than eight to ten minutes total." He added that when the tape was removed, "the principal and I both gently took the tape off. None of the students were harmed in any way from the tape being put on or taken off." He added that "their parents are completely supportive of the discipline that took place" and that he was not contacted by police "until after the arrest warrant had been issued."