Prestigious school admits covering up teacher's sexual abuse of students

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston woman became one of the leading voices that helped expose a trusted high school teacher's decades-long pattern of sexual abusing students. According to legal filings, educator Jack Moyer sexual abused students at the prestigious American School in Japan during the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The Houston woman who helped expose the cover up is referred to in legal filings as "Student #10." She asked KPRC 2 not to reveal her identity.

"I remember arriving there, and it was so completely different from anywhere that I had been before," the woman said of moving to Japan with her parents. "I was up for an adventure. It was a great adventure."

In 1977, she was 16 years old and enrolled as a junior at ASIJ. At the time, Moyer was a renowned marine biologist and popular teacher. The woman recalled that as summer approached, she had lined up an office job in Tokyo, but Moyer made her an offer to work as his research assistant on the picturesque Miyake Island. Moyer routinely led overnight school trips to the Island.

"He said, ‘Ah, don't do that for the summer. Why don't you come and work with me on Miyake?'" the woman said.

The chance to spend the summer on a beautiful island helping study marine life and take daily scuba diving trips was too much to pass up.

"I loved to swim. I loved to snorkel. I was kind of a fish," she said.

What should have been a magical time in her life ended when she said one morning, as the sun began to rise, Moyer crept into her room.

"I woke up to the feeling of somebody running their hands all over my legs," she said. "He just proceeded to grope my entire body."

Feeling isolated, scared and hours from the mainland, she said Moyer was able to molest her three more times before she made it home.

"It was scary, really scary," she said.

She said she kept the abuse a secret until her then boyfriend noticed a change in her demeanor and coaxed it out of her. Around the same time she said her parents also noticed she was acting "disturbed."

"That was the word they used, disturbed. Not troubled, not sad, but disturbed," she said.

Her family and then boyfriend confronted one of the school's principals, who assured her the matter would be taken seriously.

"I expected Moyer to be fired," she said.

She said while Moyer never approached her again, he kept his job at the school. She said when word got out about her accusations, she started getting bullied by other female students.

"Some of the girls would say, ‘Well, if he was going to do anything, he would have done it to me, and he's just a lonely old guy. You don't want to get him in trouble," she said.

"What did you feel when you saw that, at very least, he wasn't fired, let alone arrested?" asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

"I just thought they didn't care," she said. "Here, I had stepped up and stuck my neck out there in a difficult way, and nothing changed."

She said for more than 20 years after she was molested, she thought she was Moyer's only victim. Then in 2003 she said she received a call from another former student who had also been molested by Moyer and who had been trying to get the school to take action against the once revered teacher.

"I thought, 'Of course, of course I wasn't the only one. Of course, he did this to other people. It was a pattern of behavior, a sick pattern of behavior,'" she said.

After that phone call, 13 former female students, who had been molested by Moyer, banded together and got an attorney. She said their attorney sent a letter to Moyer, who by that time had retired from ASIJ but was still working with children in Japan.

"Basically, telling him, cease and desist working with kids or we will expose you, we will make your life a living hell," she said.

In January 2004, Moyer killed himself, and since his abuse had not yet come to light, a Japan Times article reporting his death read, "The environmental community lost a beacon of wisdom and inspiration, a gentle and passionate man who dedicated his life to raising awareness of the oceans' unique ecosystem."

Survivors of his sexual attacks were particularly galled by this glowing portrait of Moyer. Eventually, 13 of Moyer's victims, calling themselves "The Thirteen Sisters," retained the Portland, Oregon, law firm of Crew Janci to pursue the school for failing to stop the abuse.

Attorneys for the law firm discovered officials at ASIJ had been repeatedly told of Moyer's sexual abuse of students going as far back 1967 but did nothing. Officials at the firm stated Moyer's abuse ranged from inappropriate touching to groping to rape.

"Despite decades of aggravated notice and repeated warnings, ASIJ consistently refused to take steps to remove Moyer or otherwise enact measures to safeguard the students in its care," the Crew Janci report read.

When the scandal first came to light in 2014, The Japan Times reported Moyer had molested as many as 32 girls over a more than three decade period.

"There has to be a moment when you're like, ‘What is wrong with these people?' said Arnold.

"Yeah, at that point I was really angry," she said.

Survivors of Moyer's abuse suffered another insult in 2014 when ASIJ administrators acknowledged the school received reports of abuse but made it appear those reports had only recently come to their attention. Reeling from a backlash from alumni a new school board was appointed and hired a Boston law firm to conduct an independent investigation of Moyer's conduct and the school's handling of repeated outcries of his abuse.

After that report was concluded, the newly appointed school board finally issued a public apology to all of Moyer's victims.

"Jack Moyer's abuse of students was extensive, and there were Heads of School, high-level administrators as well as teachers, who were aware of information concerning abuse by Moyer. Survivors attempted many times to expose abuse, and we are ashamed to report that they were rebuffed or ignored by the school," the apology letter read. "We failed you and should have done more."

The perseverance of Moyer's victims prompted more than just an open apology. As part of an out-of-court settlement, the school agreed to reimburse victims for the years of counseling they underwent to overcome the pain caused by Moyer's actions. The settlement also forced the school to take numerous steps to ensure students are protected from sexual predators.

"Huge, it's huge. Most victims never get that," she said.

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