At least one person is anything but surprised to see the shenanigans Public Regulation Commission member Jerome Block Jr has allegedly pulled since getting elected to that position three years ago.---
Joe Menapace of Santa Fe remembers Block vividly as the bane of his fourth grade school year. Placed in the same class as Block when he moved here at age 10, Menapace says he became the target of persistent bullying by Block and his friends.
"When I was a little kid I was really shy and insecure, and as soon as he keyed into the fact that I wouldn't [fight], it was a daily thing—there was a bunch of verbal abuse, pushing and shoving, being a jerk really...anything from name calling to stealing my lunch."
Menapace's parents taught him never to fight other kids, so he took a pacifist approach to dealing with the problem. As a result, he found himself ridiculed for not dressing in the latest fourth-grade fashions, as the young Block apparently did.
"His parents had more money, I think, than a lot of the kids that went to school with him," Menapace says. "And that was one of the hot-button issues with him because he had all the designer clothes, and I was in whatever was on sale at Wal-Mart at the time. That seemed to delight him to no end."
In addition to his clothes, Menapace's haircut and weight were also the subject of Block's ridicule.
"He'd pick something, start in and just keep going and going until I was just completely broken down...All of elementary school I could care less about schoolwork. I was just praying to God that Jerome was sick that day so I wouldn't have to deal with him."
In recent years, schoolyard bullying has stopped being considered an accepted rite of passage and started to be viewed as a more dangerous phenomenon. This past legislative session, Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law a bill requiring the state's public schools to each create an anti-bullying program. Menapace says heightened concern about bullying is well-founded, because experiences like those he had can have lasting effects. But he says the solution is more in parent education than intervention by lawmakers.
"It's way more serious than people realize," Menapace says. "It's devastating to a kid, I mean, it ruins all your self-confidence, your self-image, everything is just shot....They don't need task forces on bullying, parents just need to tell their kids to man up and punch the crap out of the kid that's bullying them."
A Wash., DC-based coalition of prosecutors, law enforcement and crime survivors called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids has conducted some of the recent research linking bullying with sociopathy. Their study found that 60 percent of kids recognized as bullies in elementary and middle school have a criminal conviction by age 24; 40 percent have at least three convictions. So it's not surprising that Menapace says fourth-grade Block was "the same way he is now."
"He thought the world owed him everything," Menapace says. "He stopped developing emotionally at fourth grade, I think. He was a class A jerk then, he's a class A jerk now, and he probably will be until the day he dies."
Block couldn't be reached for immediate comment this afternoon, according to his office staff.