The former principal of Gloriavale Christian School has been banned from leading a school for three years after failing to report a teacher's sexual abuse of a 9-year-old girl.
Faithful Pilgrim has admitted he "failed dismally as a principal" when he did not report the offending to police, and certified the teacher's "good character" so he could renew his teaching license.
Pilgrim was principal at the secretive Christian community's West Coast school in 2012, when a teacher named Just Standfast indecently assaulted a 9-year-old girl in his class.
Standfast forcefully kissed the girl, touched her bottom and exposed his penis. She told her mother who immediately told Pilgrim what had happened. In response, he moved the teacher to a Year 11 boys' class - which he claimed removed any risk of reoffending.
Despite knowing about the abuse, he certified that Standfast was of "good character and fit to be a teacher" so he could renew his practising certificate that year, and again in 2016.
Police only learned of the assault in 2018 when it was reported by the girl's father, who had left Gloriavale. Standfast pled guilty to a charge of sexual conduct with a child under 12 and was sentenced to six months of community detention and two years of intensive supervision.
At the time the girl's father told NZME he believed his daughter had been groomed, and that Standfast had other victims who had been pressured to stay quiet.
In 2020, Pilgrim was stood down while the Teaching Council began an investigation into claims he had failed to keep Gloriavale's students safe from abuse. He resigned later that year.
The council's disciplinary tribunal has now found Pilgrim guilty of serious misconduct. His claims that Standfast was fit to be a teacher and of good character were "plainly and unambiguously wrong" and reflected poorly on his own fitness to be a teacher, the tribunal said in its just-published decision.
According to the agreed summary of facts, Pilgrim admitted he knew about the allegation, and that he had also heard a rumour about inappropriate conduct by Standfast about 25 years earlier.
Signing Standfast's certificate had been foolish, he said.
In an affidavit Pilgrim submitted that at Gloriavale "we sought to bring people to repentance, forgiveness and restoration where possible".
"Just Standfast was remorseful. We now involved police/Oranga Tamariki in such matters."
He also argued it was hard to get teachers for the school, and he had felt keeping Steadfast on board would help avert a teacher shortage.
"However I missed the bigger picture, and in doing so, failed dismally as a principal."
He claimed he was not trying to protect Standfast, and said when the girl's father went to police, he had supported the girl and her mother "against doubters" in the community and taken them to police interviews.
Pilgrim's affidavit said he accepted the Gloriavale community should not deal with such incidents internally but should report them to police and Oranga Tamariki in future. He has also attended child protection training since resigning in 2020.
The tribunal's Complaints Assessment Committee, which originally charged Pilgrim, called for his practising certificate to be cancelled.
But the tribunal decided instead to suspend it for three months - saying it would have banned him from teaching if it did not think he could be rehabilitated.
But it was "critical that Mr Pilgrim understands...that the expectations that apply to teachers and leadership in modern New Zealand learning environments apply to him and to Gloriavale Christian School", the decision said.
Conditions have been placed on Pilgrim's future employment as a teacher, including 18 months' mentoring from an independent agency. He is banned from leading a school for three years and must pay $4500 in costs.
The name and identifying details of the girl who was abused were permanently suppressed, but Pilgrim's request for name suppression for himself and the school was denied.
Pilgrim has previously been quoted in the Herald, following allegations by a former Gloriavale member that men in the community were "groomed" to have sex with underage girls.
In 2015 - three years after he was made aware of Standfast's offending - he told the Herald he had never heard of, or seen, abuse or grooming for underage sex in the Gloriavale community.
Those comments were not addressed by the disciplinary tribunal. Pilgrim, 66, remains a member of the Gloriavale community. His practising certificate will expire in 2024. His son Abraham Pilgrim is now the school's principal.