Editor's Note: Glenn Pena was recently featured on TV Land’s High School Reunion. He was known on the show as “the geek” and talks about his days being bullied at JJ Pearce High School in Richardson, TX. You can learn more about Glenn here
"The geek" on TV Land's High School Reunion
At the moment I'm known by the fact that I was bullied in high school after I appeared as "the Geek" on the TV Land network show High School Reunion.
People who know me now but didn't know me then sometimes approach me after seeing the show, shocked that I endured hurtful insults and physical attacks from other kids while I was in school. My question to each of them is usually, is it really so shocking?
Bullying is an age old problem that continues today. My experience with being bullied may have been a bit more extreme than most back then. But many people in school in the 80's felt picked on to some degree; everyone has some painful memories from their time in high school.
Since the show ended, I've received many notes from people who were picked on, taunted, teased, beat up, you name it. Some of these people were so tortured that they changed schools or their whole family moved to a new place.
Many of the decisions I made as a young adult were shaped in part by the anger I still had after being bullied in school.
After school, I joined the Marine Corps, which was a healthy outlet for that aggression. In college, I refused the opportunity to join a fraternity even though I was approached by several because of fears that I would continue to be bullied in some way or other. I sometimes got into fights or drank too much.
The emotional scars from bullying sometimes run deep and can affect a person's life profoundly.
But today, the level of mistreatment by bullies seems amplified compared to what I experienced.
There are just so many more ways today to mess with someone besides calling them names to their face or making a prank phone call.
Now there's the Internet, with web pages, email and other avenues to inflict pain. And it can end in tragedy.
Old fashioned in-school bullying is definitely still around, but it seems there's more violence.
It's only one example, but the recent story of 11-year-old Matthew Mumbauer from Massachusetts really affected me. Matthew was thrown down a flight of school stairs by someone who had been bullying him for some time. Poor Matthew tried to finish his school day with a collapsed lung and by the end of the day was paralyzed because of swelling on his spinal cord.
Matthew had told adults that he was being bullied but nothing changed for him until it was too late.
I want to say to all those who are being bullied right now in school: you are not alone. It happens a lot more than some people think. Studies have shown that 15% to 25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency. (Melton et.al., 1998; Nansel et.al., 2001)
You shouldn't feel ashamed of the way you are being treated. Shame causes a victim of bullying to allow it to continue. You need to remember that it's not your fault you're being bullied! Stop ignoring it and tell an adult. Tell your mom or dad, tell your favorite teacher at school.
Just make sure you tell someone and make sure they listen and help – it's the only way that the bullying will stop. And remember that revenge is NOT the answer. Be proud of who you are and don't stoop to a bully's level.
For us adults dealing with the effects of bullying, remember that you, too, are not alone. I believe it is essential for bullying victims to acknowledge to themselves what happened to them and how it has affected their lives. It's also important to forgive the person who bullied you and get on with your life.
I had long ignored my feelings about my mistreatment. But at my 20th high School reunion, when I confronted one of those bullies with what he did and had a chance to discuss it, iI found it easy to forgive him, and I felt great afterwards. If you have the opportunity to do that in person like I did, that's great, but even if you'll likely never see them again, it's never too late to forgive and move on.
If you're a parent, a good starting point is to talk with your child about bullying. You might learn some things you didn't know about your child's experiences in school.
Let your child know what to do if he or she is a bullying victim, or witness. A quick Internet search will provide you plenty of sites offering advice. And check what anti-bullying policies and prevent efforts your child's school works with.
We will never end school bullying completely. But if we focus on it as a community, we can prevent the kind of violence and anger we see in so many students today. That would take teachers, school administrators and parents of bullies, victims and bystanders alike getting together to head off the violence.
Filed under: 360° Radar
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