Lack of progress in probe into ASIJ ex-teacher’s sex abuses riles victims


Staff Writer

Nearly a year after the American School in Japan promised to launch a third-party investigation into sexual abuse by late former teacher Jack Moyer, victims and alumni are becoming increasingly frustrated the school’s administration has yet to provide a report on the probe or offer an apology and redress.

In its latest letter emailed to alumni on April 2, the ASIJ said the investigation had not been completed yet and attributed the delay partly to having to meet demands from the victims’ lawyers, who are conducting a separate investigation.

“Unfortunately, the update from ASIJ was disappointing and egregious,” said Lisa Jastram, a 1974 graduate of the school who has been spearheading several different campaigns for the victims. “They seemed to be blaming the victims.”

Moyer worked at the school from 1963 until 2000 and committed suicide in 2004.

Furious with ASIJ’s response, 13 alleged victims of Moyer launched an online petition on Change.org, demanding that the school disclose a final report by July 1, issue an apology and compensate the victims.

“All we are asking from the school is to release (an upcoming) report (on its investigation) in full, make sure they are protecting current and future students by making sure strong policies are in place, provide reasonable compensation to the victims who have suffered now for decades and make a full and public acknowledgment and apology for ASIJ’s administrative failings to protect children in the past,” said Janet Simmons, one of the campaigners who claims she was abused by Moyer after she enrolled in ASIJ at the age of 11 in 1970.

As of Thursday, 1,384 people had signed the online petition.

Last June, the ASIJ announced it had commissioned Boston-based law firm Ropes & Gray to conduct a “completely independent” investigation into Moyer’s alleged sex crimes, and said it would be concluded by the fall.

But “fall came and went. Winter passed without word,” victims wrote in the petition.

A team of attorneys hired by the victims has conducted a separate investigation into the abuse over the past year, interviewing as many as 78 witnesses going back to 1968 through 2004.

Their investigation found that the ASIJ had been aware of Moyer’s inappropriate behavior with young female students by 1968 at the latest. The investigation team also found that ASIJ leaders, including former headmasters, had received “more than four dozen” reports of Moyer’s wrongdoing over the years but failed to take any action.

ASIJ claimed in March 2014 that it had learned of Moyer’s decades-long wrongdoing in November 2013.

“Imagine how we felt when we learned that our school knew of Jack Moyer’s misconduct as early as 1968 — long before any of us were ever abused — and that many more children were made to suffer needlessly, all because the school failed to live up to its promises and did not do anything to protect future victims — including many of us,” the victims said in their latest community letter addressed to fellow alumni.

Stephen Crew is a lawyer at Portland-based law firm O’Donnell Clark & Crew LLP, which conducted the investigation commissioned by the victims. He said his team had provided Ropes & Gray, the independent investigators hired by the ASIJ, with details concerning the school’s concealment of Moyer’s abuse.

“Ropes & Gray is supposed to be releasing (the results of) its investigation. We’re waiting for this report to come out. And if it’s not accurate, we will consider releasing our statements,” or findings, Crew said.

Since Moyer’s abuse spanned several decades and students hailed from all over the globe, victims and alumni say it is hard to pinpoint how many people Moyer abused.

The Japan Times has reported that during his employment at the ASIJ from 1963 to 1984, he is believed to have abused at least 32 young girls — although Simmons describes the figure as “very conservative” and speculates the real tally is probably much higher.

Moyer himself confessed to having abused at least 13 ASIJ students during an email exchange with Simmons in 2003, a year before he committed suicide, she said.

The ASIJ said that following the end of his teaching tenure at the school in 1984, Moyer continued on as a consultant for ASIJ’s off-campus marine science programs until 2000. After he left ASIJ, Moyer, who was also a renowned marine biologist, served as chairman of the Oceanic Wildlife Society in Tokyo from 2001 until his death in 2004.

Moyer reportedly started what is called “ocean schools” in 1987 on the island of Miyake, 180 km southwest of Tokyo, working with Japanese schoolchildren until 2003 — suggesting he may have abused a number of Japanese pupils, according to ASIJ alumni.

His pedophilic transgressions ranged from forcible rape to sodomy and “extensive, repeated” sexual abuse, victims allege. The abuse often took place at his home in Tokyo or during school excursions to Miyake Island.

The ASIJ board of directors declined to comment when contacted by The Japan Times earlier this month. The school’s latest update, emailed to alumni on April 2, was the only information they could make available at the moment, they said.

But that email, which was the first time the school had spoken about the Moyer incident since last June, was sent after Jastram launched a letter-writing campaign last month that highlighted the ASIJ’s reluctance to provide information on the case.

The campaign involved about 40 fellow ASIJ graduates from 1970s and former faculty members sending emails and letters to ASIJ board members, demanding that the school take responsibility and implement measures to prevent such abuse from happening in future.

“Moyer was a sick monster, but the administrations that did nothing, that knowingly sent young girls into harm’s way, are the much bigger monsters,” wrote Jessie Furness, class of 1975, in the letter. “Now is the time to do the right thing and redress the wrong that our sisters suffered.

“Thanks in part to the excellent education we received at ASIJ, we are a smart bunch, many of us media savvy, that we will continue in our quest,” Furness wrote.

“Don’t you have sisters, wives, daughters and aunts?” wrote Debra Grayson, class of 1973. “I don’t accept that nothing was known at the time of Moyer’s career and only by publishing the investigation and informing the young people who lived and studied with this man will the healing start.”

Another former student, 1975 graduate Marjie Carroll, urged ASIJ board members to take steps to make their organization a more “transparent” and “honest” model of “ethical leadership.”

Jastram agrees.

“We feel so bad that so many girls were hurt and nobody helped them. We didn’t know. So now that we know, we want to (help them) as much as we can,” Jastram said.

  • Ron

    This movement by the 13 and the large number of alumni supporters is NOT an anti-ASIJ movement. It is a call to ASIJ to become a leader in addressing this sexual molestation case and reclaiming the moral compass that we thought the history, ideals and Mission Statement of ASIJ uphold. Seemingly putting the reputation of ASIJ above the safety and well being of its students–through FIVE administrations–is not the ASIJ we Mustangs thought we were part of.

  • Andrew Lund

    After learning about the abuse by Jack Moyer last year, I reached out personally and privately to ASIJ to offer my help. However, I received little response. It pains me to watch the current ASIJ leadership continue to miss this opportunity to respond properly. If public pressure is the only way to urge this process along, then we will continue to bring it until 1) ASIJ apologizes, 2) the report is released, 3) victims are compensated, and 4) current student protection is verified. I commend ASIJ for some positive response, to initiate the investigation with Ropes and Gray and to improve their student protection policy. However, until the report is released we won’t be able to verify if the updated policy address all of the root causes which enabled this abuse to continue for decades. I stand with my ASIJ alumni sisters who were victimized by Jack Moyer and will continue until everything that can be done, should be done, is accomplished.

  • TCK girl

    Thank you Japan Times. I am alumna of ASIJ. I want to be proud of my school. I see now that ASIJ is no different than other large, wealthy, status-seeking schools… bent on keeping a polished image rather than taking a leadership role on an issue that plagues society everywhere and which can only stop if we are OPEN about it, LISTEN to those who’ve been molested, THANK them for coming forward, HONOR their pain, and DO SOMETHING to the perpetrators rather than allowing them to continue because they are a feather in our cap!
    ASIJ continued to honor this monster despite administrators knowing what he did. Girls had reported incidents as early as 1968, yet he continued to have access to young girls until 2003?!? How many victims are out there dealing with this, ashamed to come forward? …Knowing that their older sisters had tried to protect them but that the school had ignored their pleas? …That those same do-nothing administrators went on to be honored in ASIJ history enough to even have buildings named after them!
    What kind of lesson does this teach the young people at ASIJ today? That saving face is more important than integrity? That is is ok to ignore reports of abuse if the perpetrator is valuable enough? That those who know about violence yet look the other way can still be honored with no consequences?

    It is time for ASIJ to take a leadership role on this crime. The report they commissioned must be released. A genuine apology must be extended to those who were vicitimized. The victims must be given enough funds to cover the years of angst and therapy they have had to endure. And lastly, so that the children of TODAY know that ASIJ DOES care, the names of certain buildings and awards must be changed. They must not continue to honor the men who allowed this to happen!!
    Please, ASIJ, become a school I can be proud of again!!

  • Susan Larson

    The ASIJ administration and Board have expressed “sympathy” a couple of times, as if these events happened in some other country and not under their roof. They have not expressed apology or responsibility for ignoring earlier reports to them, and they continue to offer “no comment” to the Japan Times. The investigation, as well as ASIJ’s recent update letter blaming victims for the delay, have only been delivered after intense pressure and the efforts of hundreds of alumni.

    Many of us remain unconvinced that they are capable of handling this type of situation. Statistics suggest that this crime afflicts most schools. The Japan Times has already reported on St. Mary’s, and we’ve heard similar stories regarding Nishimachi and CAJ in Tokyo, the Canadian Academy in Kobe, and Nagoya International School. There are predators who teach and coach. They are few, but each has numerous victims, and they thrive in a culture of silence. And that is what concerns me most – the silence of ASIJ’s leadership today. Silence is not leadership.

  • KathyK

    Current parents and students may be able to play an important role in the next steps taken by the Board and administration of ASIJ. Local voices can lend strength to the movement calling for the Board and admin to display the integrity they encourage in their own students. It is thanks to the survivors that the current and future students of ASIJ are now FINALLY under a more comprehensive set of policies and procedures to protect them from similar atrocities. Now perhaps this JT article will spur ASIJ into action to also fairly compensate the survivors, issue an apology, and to release a full investigative report (not just their own summary), though I am afraid the current Board and admin have not shown intentions to do what is honorable. I know there are supporters there working behind the scenes, but I hope more parents and students will (if they have not already) directly demand that the Board and admin of ASIJ change its course of action to become an example of leadership, courage, integrity, and perhaps humility by doing the right thing, even if it’s retroactively. The survivors have certainly demonstrated these qualities. The survivors have also endured DECADES of pain and suffering only to have the Board and admin turn their backs on them. This is not how we should treat “family,” and sometimes the children have to band together when parents are behaving badly. To me, ASIJ has always been about the amazing students and teachers who helped me become who I am today, and now it is up to us, past and present ASIJers, to do what we can to restore the ASIJ family name to one of which we can be proud.

  • David Bradford

    I have written letters expressing my concern and requesting formal investigations by The Honorable Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (ASIJ ’67), and Dr. Fred Van Leuven, Executive Director-Western Accrediting Commission for Schools since these individuals represent Department of State, Department of Defense (whose dependents attended ASIJ), and the Accreditation body for ASIJ. I would encourage readers of JT to do the same since it appears the only way ASIJ will awaken to the need for resolution and restitution is to pull all US Government dependents and ban them from attending ASIJ, and have the WAC Accreditation organization suspend its accreditation of ASIJ. Thank you JT and Tomohiro Osaki for undertaking this reporting and it is my hope you will open your own investigative reporting of ASIJ’s lack of resolve.

    Dr. David Bradford, ASIJ Class of ’66

  • Axel

    It would be nice if the article provided us with a link to the online petition! Thank you.

    • Ron

      see above

    • Ron

      Seems like JT does not allow website addresses. Just go to Google and type in Change dot org asij Board of Directors

    • JackofSomeTrades

      Yes, as Ron said: the petition is to the ASIJ board of directors, and it is called “Take responsibility for the sexual abuse of Children at ASIJ”. This is important because there was an older petition started by the alumni a year ago and you want to make sure you’ve got the right one

    • Susan Larson

      asijsurvivors(dot)org has a link to the petition, a copy of the petition, and numerous other helpful links and resources