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ASIJ announces investigation into sex abuse

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

The American School in Japan has finally made the announcement that victims of Jack Moyer’s sex abuse have been waiting decades to hear: An independent investigation will examine the former teacher’s suspected crimes and why school officials apparently allowed his attacks to continue unabated.

According to an email sent by ASIJ’s board of directors on June 4, investigators will study the school’s records related to Moyer, interview victims of his attacks and attempt to uncover what exactly school administrators knew of the alleged serial pedophile’s assaults.

“It will address the allegations against Moyer, and assess how ASJI [sic] faculty, staff and administrators responded. It will also examine any other allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior at ASIJ that might surface as part of this investigation,” states the email addressed to alumni and parents of children currently attending the school.

Tasked with conducting the investigation is the law firm Ropes & Gray, which is based in Boston but also has offices in Tokyo. A summary of the final report is expected to be released to the public in the autumn.

The announcement from ASIJ comes in the wake of repeated demands from alumni that the school come clean about what it knew of Moyer’s abuse. Moyer worked for the school between 1963 and 2000, during which he is suspected of molesting dozens of girls — some as young as 9 years old. He committed suicide in 2004.

Following the board’s announcement, alumni appeared divided.

Susan Larson, a 1979 graduate and organizer of an online petition demanding an inquiry, told The Japan Times the decision exceeded her expectations.

“I’m very happy that the board has been so responsive to the hundreds of alums who have been asking for action,” she said. “I hope the investigation will bring clarity to a confusing situation and facilitate healing for the survivors and for all of us.”

However, Janet Simmons, a victim of Moyer’s abuse who spearheaded a campaign to reveal his crimes while he was still alive, called the announcement “tragically belated.”

“I commend ASIJ for taking this long-overdue first step, but it is only a first step,” Simmons said. “This is not only about crimes committed by one man but is also about an institution that obfuscated these crimes, which led to the abuse of even more innocent children.”

David Bruns, a 1968 graduate, also expressed concerns that the inquiry would overlook the possible abuse of Japanese children by Moyer. The serial pedophile is believed to have worked with Japanese schoolchildren between the mid-1980s and 2003.

“The school has a moral obligation to help the forgotten Japanese victims. From the board’s ignoring of alumni pleas to help these victims, it is clear that they don’t care about them,” Bruns said. “This is unconscionable behavior, unworthy of educators and parents.”

When asked whether the investigation would reach out to the Japanese schools where Moyer had access to young children, Stephanie Toppino, chair of the board of directors, said, “We will have no further comment pending the completion of the investigation.”

A Ropes & Gray spokesperson offered a stock response to the same inquiry: “The objective of Ropes & Gray’s investigation is to be independent, thorough, sensitive and fair, and it would be inappropriate to comment further while the investigation is underway.”

Meanwhile, ASIJ appears to have hired representation from U.S. public relations firm Sard Verbinnen & Co., suggesting it is bracing itself for a storm of lawsuits from Moyer’s victims. The company specializes in crisis-management services and litigation support; it did not respond to requests for comment on the issues raised in this article.

Readers who have information related to Moyer’s abuse — or abuse committed by other ASIJ employees — can contact Ropes & Gray by phone on 03-6259-3566 (in Japan) or 617-235-4397 (U.S.), or by email via ASIJReportline@ropesgray.com. Send your comments on this story and ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

  • Mona

    Sounds like Jimmy Savile :(