ASIJ admits honored teacher sexually abused students

Some alumni say cover-up of molestation reports spanned decades

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

The American School in Japan, one of Tokyo’s most prestigious international schools, has revealed that teacher Jack Moyer, a renowned marine biologist, sexually abused students while employed by the institution between 1963 and 2000.

School executives made the admission to alumni in an email sent out Monday. However, numerous former staff and students allege that ASIJ administrators had been aware of the molestations for decades — and failed to act on victims’ complaints.

Moyer committed suicide in Tokyo in 2004.

The email sent to alumni by Stephanie H. Toppino, chairwoman of ASIJ’s board of directors, and Head of School Edwin V. Ladd stated: “This past November, we received a letter from a former ASIJ student detailing sexual abuse by a former ASIJ teacher, Jack Moyer. Based on other information we have been able to gather, as well as an acknowledgement made by Moyer to another affected student prior to his death in 2004, we believe he engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with students during his teaching tenure at ASIJ.”

It was not immediately clear why the school delayed contacting alumni for four months after receiving the letter in November.

Furthermore, a number of former staff and students reacted angrily to the email’s implication that the school had only recently discovered Moyer’s abuse.

Janet Simmons, who says she was abused by Moyer after enrolling in ASIJ as an 11-year-old in 1970, told The Japan Times that she had first made school officials aware of the alleged crimes in 1990.

“Much to my disappointment, they did not contact me nor did they cease to elevate his stature in the community. Had they (acted), many girls may not have suffered from his abuse,” she said.

Simmons says she repeated her allegations to ASIJ officials in 2000, but the school still did nothing to notify parents or children. In 2009, she detailed the circumstances of her abuse in a blog titled “Thank You For Holding My Hand.”

Another former ASIJ student, speaking to The Japan Times on condition of anonymity, said she witnessed Moyer receiving oral sex from a female student in 1979. She said she reported what she had seen to the school principal and school counselor, but she believes they took no subsequent action.

According to the former student, who said she has been in contact with many fellow alumni, Moyer molested at least 32 young girls during his employment at ASIJ.

Additionally, former student Tim Shorrock said he witnessed Moyer touching two 13-year-old females inappropriately during a school trip to Chiba Prefecture in 1964. He recalled “thinking something is very wrong here. He’s a grown up, and they’re my age. Why is he doing this?”

Like Simmons, Shorrock believes ASIJ officials were aware of Moyer’s abuse for many years.

“They knew about it and never lifted a finger. There is no doubt in my mind there was a cover-up, and that’s something the school still needs to answer for,” he said.

A longtime ASIJ teacher and former colleague of Moyer who asked that his name not be published due to continuing connections with the school told The Japan Times: “This is a blight that has been hidden. It is a horrendous cover-up that all the administrators of the ’60s,’70s and ’80s knew about.”

Approached for comment on allegations that school officials had been aware of Moyer’s crimes for many years, board Chairwoman Toppino told The Japan Times, “ASIJ has communicated all that it will say publicly on this matter in the letter sent to our community this past Monday.”

In an apparent move to discourage alumni from speaking to the media, the officials’ initial email had requested that alumni with information contact the school directly “(t)o ensure that any communications are both accurate and respect the privacy of our community.”

Founded in 1902, ASIJ bills itself as “Tokyo’s Leading International School,” with campuses in Roppongi and Chofu. According to its website, it currently has 1,500 students ranging from nursery age to grade 12 from 40 nationalities. Its alumni include U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Sony President and CEO Kazuo Hirai and pop star Hikaru Utada.

Moyer worked as a middle school teacher at ASIJ from 1963 to 1984 and a consultant to the school’s marine science programs until 2000. He was a well-known expert in marine biology, particularly in the waters surrounding Miyake Island, a volcanic islet 180 km southwest of Tokyo on which he owned a house.

Moyer led ASIJ students on weeklong study trips to the island. During these trips, it is alleged, he abused a number of female students.

Commentators on an open Facebook community group for 1970s ASIJ alumni this week portrayed Moyer as a sexual predator who chose his targets carefully.

He appears to have focused on young American girls — vulnerable due to being so far from their home country — and groomed them with compliments and gifts.

According to Simmons, “Jack was also a very skilled manipulator. He was very delusional. He didn’t believe he was doing anything wrong.”

Moyer apparently fooled many people. In 1996, he was awarded a prize from the Asahi Shimbun for his marine conservation efforts and work with children. While in 2000, Victor Entertainment released a CD of the biologist — calling himself “Papa Jack Moyer” — singing jazz covers. It was titled “Chikyuu no Kodomotachi E,” (“To The Children of the Earth”).

That same year, Moyer was forced to evacuate to the mainland following a volcanic eruption on Miyake.

Four years later, he committed suicide at the age of 74. According to his obituary in the Mainichi Shimbun, his body was discovered lying on his futon next to two bottles of beer and a large number of unidentified pills.

In its email on Monday, ASIJ officials sought to reassure alumni of the safety of children currently at the school.

“We also take this opportunity to assure our community that ASIJ is a school committed to sustaining an environment that does not permit or condone any form of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, or any abuse of children by adults,” it read.

It also told alumni that it will “continue to review policies and practices as they relate to the protection of students.”

Such reassurances appear to have split alumni.

Former student Shorrock said they ring hollow.

“ASIJ needs to go far beyond this statement and hire investigators to determine how Moyer’s crimes were covered up and who is responsible. Until this, it is only an exercise in PR,” he told The Japan Times.

On the other hand, Simmons believes ASIJ has adopted sufficient policies to prevent such a problem from recurring.

She also expressed hope that, by speaking out, her testimony will benefit the ASIJ community.

“Sharing my story has helped others recognize questionable relationships. I think the more we talk about it — and share how manipulative these perpetrators are — then hopefully we can all see how to help prevent this from happening to other children,” she said.

  • donschneider

    A betrayer of such a sacred trust is the lowest form of humanity !

  • Tory Gates

    We’ve seen it in the Catholic Church at varied levels; where I live we saw this at Penn State. There is still a huge wall of denial being put up. If this is true, I hope the victims push ASIJ to the limit and make them pay. Money doesn’t take away the pain of sexual abuse, but it hits the school right where it hurts the the most.

  • GBR48

    Those who have been been part of a conspiracy of silence – of a cover-up – in cases of sexual abuse, should be considered as complicitous in the acts of abuse that they have permitted to continue to take place. They should be considered criminally liable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law as co-perpetrators.

  • http://www.jamesehorn.com/ Jim Horn

    In reading this, I am thinking this took place in California… Same-same with the school boards (and, in California, the unions really strive to protect the criminals.

  • Momat32

    I was a student at ASIJ from 1970 to 74, my 8th grade to 12 grade years. I could see that Jack Moyer was a popular teacher and had certain girls who were his favorites. Back then I couldn’t understand what all that meant. Now, I have great compassion and sympathy for the people who were the victims of Jack Moyer’s behavior. And yet, it is so easy to paint someone as fully evil. Human beings are always more complicated than that. Jack Moyer must have been a very troubled man to have behaved in such an abhorrent way. But even in his terribly troubled way, he was a part of the ASIJ community. Just as I wish the young girls that he so inappropriately involved himself with would have been heard and helped back then (and now), I wish Jack Moyer could have been helped.

  • Sakura

    Some years ago it was principal of another elite international school in Tokyo who got arrested for smuggling drugs to Tokyo. I think it might be time for Japanese people to stop idolizing international schools. Too many problems at international schools in Tokyo. Many schools are run for profit by a group of people. They don’t really care about education or children. I know some people went to a religious international school at Tokyo suburb in Higashi Kurume. They said the teachers are mostly related to each other as families ( husbands- wives- parents-children). The wife is the principal of elementary, husband is a staff at the school whose job unclear. Those people just do whatever they want. They don’t really care about kids and Japanese parents pay very big amount of money to send their kids there. Wake up..Japanese schools are so much better !

    • no one

      Im sorry but you cant just simply generalize international schools like they’re just some one big group- every school is different like Japanese schools. and its not like Japanese schools dont have cases where their teachers/principals sexually abused students or got caught for drugs-its just not brought up as much as the international schools. Im not saying which schools are better but slapping ‘Japanese schools are so much better’ is just way too ignorant. Why don’t you wake up.

    • David Fujii

      Your comments show that you know nothing about ANY of the international schools. Do you think all of the parents are blindly sending there children to any of these schools without evaluating the school, atmosphere, kind of education being offered? There are plenty of great Japanese schools but your statement is uninformed and plain ignorant.

  • Jeffrey T Watkins

    This has been going on in Japan for a very very long time. There is something very wrong in Japan, it seems that when it come to sex most everyone looks the other way. Adult men are having sex with Under age girls, some as young as 9. It’s both Japanese men mostly and some foreigners. It happens here in America to but not as much because of the stiffer laws. The Japanese government dose not do anything to protect the children in their country. It’s very sicking to heir of these things going on all over Japan. There needs to be a crack down on the people men and women who engage endangering a child’s welfare.

  • Andy Richter

    My Aunt who went to ASIJ in the 60′s and 70′s told me about Moyer before I went to Miyake in the early nineties, it was well known that he was a pedophile for decades…
    There are also allegations about another Middle School teacher who taught in the nineties which haven’t been addressed, but I think it is just a matter of time…

    • Tacey Miller

      Can you contact me regarding what your Aunt told you?

      • Andy Richter

        Hi Tacey,
        I don’t know how to contact you…

      • Tacey Miller

        taceymiller@gmail.com I am an ASIJ grad, attended from 1st grade through HS graduation. The rest we can chat off social media. So glad you found this. It was a long shot.

  • gokyo

    It is obvious that the leadership of ASIJ has set a course for sweeping this under the carpet. The school prides itself with its Jazz performance for Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, visit by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and its efforts to help the disaster stricken Tohoku residents yet it is removing itself from its responsibilities to its own alumni, the Japanese people and Americans here in Japan. I am sure that the statements and admissions made in the letters by Moyer to the victims are true and to refer to these events as ‘alleged’ is ridiculous as well. The prolonged cover-up by the school is just as egregious as Moyer’s actions, if not worse. With this school’s actions and the recent revelation of the cover-up by the U.S. military at Kadena concerning the ecological disaster of PCB contamination will only continue to give the Japanese the impression that Americans cannot be trusted, and individuals in any leadership position should remove themselves from any association with this school. We have yet to see the complete fallout of the Penn State debacle and I am sure that there is more to come with ASIJ as well.

  • AMC

    I understand that this is a sickness and that human beings should show mercy, but there is a special place in hell for people like Jack Moyer.

  • fairleft

    ASIJ is doing nothing to move away from a ‘see no evil’ culture that has _everything_ to do with the abuse. A lot of these monsters specifically choose to work in uptight and PR-obsessed environments, and it would be very nice if ASIJ understood that _it_ has a problem. Long-term abuse can’t happen in a community that welcomes honest acknowledgement of problems, open debate/disagreement, and real parent/student input.

  • TCK girl

    I was also a student at ASIJ from 1970-1974. I envied the girls who got to go to Miyake, but remember feeling Mr.M was “creepy”. I disagree with the statement that these girls were vulnerable because they were “so far from their home country”. Like me, Japan WAS their home country. They were vulnerable because they were at the age between childhood and adulthood, when MANY children are especially vulnerable.
    Blaming ASIJ is easy, but is kind of like passing the buck. YES, they should have followed up on this LONG ago, but to sue them now only hurts the current students. Kind of like suing children for the sins of their grandparents. I’d like to see a more empathetic apology and MUCH more done to be proactive in preventing future incidents. Perhaps they could take a leading role in researching this topic and teaching how to prevent it.
    Lastly, we ALL need to be more aware of this problem. The BEST way to prevent it, I think is for PARENTS to spend more quality time with their kids…. this means TALKING with them daily with electronics off…. from the time they are old enough to talk. Keep those lines of communication open….
    I loved ASIJ and still do. The sins of this one man should not detract from the MANY fantastic teachers I had there, who are also now reeling from this news.

  • ElliFrank

    ASIJ needs to do more to address the systemic problems within its school culture that enabled this pedophile to abuse so many children and teens for so many years. Given the school leaders’ complicity through silence, I think the Administration and Board should be held liable for the criminal activity as well.

    In any case, ASIJ needs to start working with a group like the Enough Abuse Campaign in the U.S. to get educated about the implementation of prevention and intervention policies and best practices so this will not happen again. There are ways that schools can make it much easier for perpetrators of child or teen sexual abuse to be identified earlier in their “careers,” and even sometimes before they are hired.

    ASIJ also needs to do some serious work to make amends to the students who were abused! Not that the school will ever undo the harm that was done, but a responsible, informed, and measurable set of responses could play an important role in victims’ healing.

  • gokyo

    Hopefully the Japanese Ministry of Education will begin an investigation into ASIJ’s actions and consider shutting down this school since it has a problem with compliance with Japanese laws pertaining to the safety of students.

  • JB Handley

    ASIJ needs to come clean 100 percent on who knew what when and how many girls were abused by this monster, the sooner the better. We all know ASIJ is going to get sued to the heavens and rightfully so, let’s get on with it.

    How could our administrators have knowingly shipped 12 year old girls off to Miyake to be abused by a monster-unbelievable!!

    I went to ASIJ from 81-87, went to Miyake, and am heartsick for all these girls. Shame on ASIJ, the cover-up is unconscionable, I have no doubt the number of abused will continue to climb, I’m hearing more stories each day as the story has broken. Japan Times, don’t let ASIJ off the hook!!

    JB Handley. ASIJ 87

  • Robert

    Regarding Jon Mitchell’s March 20 article “ASIJ admits honored teacher sexually abused students”:

    In the past couple of weeks it has become unquestionably clear that at ASIJ “those in positions of authority had failed to protect children” from the sick pedophile rampages of former teacher Jack Moyer between the years 1963 – 2000. I use quotations because these are the exact words used in the independent report by Louis Freeh when investigating the Sandusky child abuse case at Penn State University. ASIJ failed to protect children when those in positions of authority allowed Moyer to remain employed and interact with young children even after informed of his transgressions dozens of times over several decades.

    While it is painfully obvious the ASIJ scandal is as far-reaching and devastating as the Sandusky case, unfortunately, this is where the similarities end. Whereas Penn State has been proactive in disclosing the truth, ASIJ appears – for now – to be moving in the other direction. To date there has been near silence from the school. The glaring exception is the ambiguously and craftily worded “Community Announcement” on March 17. Rather than express their commitment to “honesty and integrity” (one of the school’s core values), this announcement seems to be defensive and written by an attorney.

    Chairwoman Toppino tells The Japan Times, “ASIJ has communicated all that it will say publicly on this matter in the letter sent to our community this past Monday.” The announcement also discourages alumni from speaking publicly. These are not the actions of an institution interested in revealing the entire truth of this horrid affair. Perhaps Ms. Toppino has forgotten how well ASIJ taught us to think for ourselves.

    For ASIJ to attempt to silence the truth would be a grave mistake. The school has an opportunity to do the right thing to support the healing of the survivors, ensure this never happens again and restore the virtue of the institution. This should begin with an independent investigation focused on the truth. Thousands of alumni around the globe are communicating with each other and are closely watching ASIJ’s next step.

    Robert L. Sharp III
    ASIJ Class of 1987
    Tokyo Resident 1976 – 1987
    San Francisco, California

  • KathyK

    There is so much to say about these events but I will comment on what ASIJ can do NOW. Without admitting any culpability (though they should), they can still do the following, which families with children at ASIJ should demand:
    ASIJ needs to provide evidence that it has consulted with and received training from experts in the field of childhood sexual abuse for professional guidance and ongoing continuing education of its teachers, staff, volunteers, and administrators regarding matter of childhood sexual abuse and mandated reporting. Current protocols regarding the mandated reporting of sexual abuse must also be reviewed by an expert in childhood sexual abuse who can then make recommendations. In consultation with an expert in childhood sexual abuse, ASIJ should provide age-appropriate educational programming informed by the best evidence/practices available so students, too, have the tools and resources to empower and protect themselves.

    ASIJ has already proved itself to be incapable of developing and following through on policies and procedures related to mandated reporting, and thus the involvement of a child abuse expert is necessary to ensure the safety of its future students. An organization such as Keeping Children Safe (http://www.keepingchildrensafe.org.uk) may be a good fit for ASIJ as it works internationally to prevent child abuse. They offer a consultation service to evaluate organizations such as yours and a certification process that assists organizations in becoming “child safe.” Evidence that ASIJ has received consultation and certification from an independent organization such as this would indicate that it is committed to and capable of protecting your students.

    To protect future students, ASIJ should make accessible through a dedicated portion on its website a description of current policies and procedures regarding preventing, investigating, and reporting sexual abuse. Recommendations regarding the steps students and families can take when abuse occurs and a list of sexual abuse resources in and outside of ASIJ must also be included.