National

American School in Japan launches scholarship to 'promote healing' in wake of sex-abuse scandal

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The American School in Japan on Monday presented a student with a scholarship created as part of the Tokyo school’s efforts to honor survivors of former teacher Jack Moyer’s sex abuse and “promote healing and reconciliation” in its community.

The inaugural award — ¥1 million toward the future higher education of the recipient — is “a tribute” to the survivors of Moyer’s abuse and “recognizes their exceptional strength and courage” in bringing the truth to light and fighting for justice, said Brian Johnson, chairman of the ASIJ board of directors and trustees.

During a ceremony at the ASIJ campus in Chofu, western Tokyo, the award was presented by 10 survivors making their first visit to the school since the scandal came to light in early 2014. It was given to a current ASIJ student in recognition of her own courage and strength.

“I think what the award is doing is that the American School in Japan is displaying their desire to be open and honest about what happened in the past, move forward and make the school a safer place for children,” Janet Simmons, a former ASIJ student who was abused by Moyer in the early 1970s, said, calling the scholarship initiative a landmark development.

Simmons was the first person to make a contribution to the fund for the Strength and Courage Award, which was also supported by donations from over 30 other people as well as from the school itself.

The award was handed to 18-year-old Sofie Kusaba, who together with friends has been volunteering to help people with mental disabilities create art in a bid to let them unleash their “amazing talents” that often go unnoticed.

“I will do my best to put this award to good use in my studies,” Kusaba said.

The Japan Times has reported Moyer, who committed suicide in 2004, is believed to have abused at least 32 young girls during his tenure at ASIJ from 1963 to 1984. His pedophilic acts ranged from “unwanted touching” to “fondling of breasts and genitals” and “serial rape,” according to a report published by the school last year.

The ASIJ publicly acknowledged allegations concerning Moyer’s sex abuse in March 2014.

Its subsequent investigation into exactly what happened, however, was marked by significant tardiness that spurred some survivors and their supporters to mount campaigns blasting what they saw as the school’s prolonged inaction.

Last June, the school’s administration admitted in a landmark update emailed to alumni that its predecessors had “rebuffed or ignored” numerous attempts by survivors to expose Moyer’s abuse.

A later report concluded that factors such as the administration’s “historical lack of formal polices and protocols for responding to allegations of sexual abuse” and “cultural norms that treated discussing sexual abuse as taboo” allowed Moyer’s abuse to go unchecked for decades.