National / Social Issues

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

by Tomohiro Osaki

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.