It has been interesting to read the "very Berkeley" range of responses to the bullying issue. Both my kids went through BUSD - Malcolm X, Willard, Longfellow, and BHS; I currently work in a large Berkeley elementary school. When I asked my kids about bullying, neither of them felt bullied at school. My quiet,, nerdy daughter always tried to see the good in everyone (except her brother) and was always willing to help kids with their school work. Her thoughts about bullying? "Some people are just mean and you learn to avoid them". My happy, impulsive son was on occasion called a bully-maybe because he was so cheerful he had a hard time seeing when he was annoying people (like his sister). He had a few suspensions, mostly for letting his play get so rough he and his friend would wind up in the VP office. He had so many friends of different colors and orientations that he never felt threatened - he always had something in common with somebody.
As a teacher in elementary school, your day is often filled with kids' complaints about one another; some are valid, some are not. Trust me, teachers do have a different view of kid behavior than parents. Bullying has become such a hot topic that it's almost like seeing Commies during the Cold War. Yes, they exist; yes, adults are bullies, too. The difference is sorting out what is just kid behavior. what is just mean kid behavior, , and what is culturally different from us.
A pre-school teacher I know said she could pick out the kids that would bcomee "victims" as young as 3 or 4. It had to do with how the parents treated them. Did parents fight all their battles and weigh in on every complaint? One parent I know would greet her child at the end of the school day with "What went wrong today?" or "Was anyone mean to you today?". Kids will tell parents what they think they want to hear. Kids do need to fight their own battles early on, develop their own compassion, and realize that not everyone is like them-and they aren't always right- and that the world is not always "fair".
At my school we have had kids called "gay" and "fag" and took it very seriously. We have also had very "girly" boys and girls who were boys (their real gender identity confirmed in HS) who were not uncomfortable at school. That's not to say they weren't teased; but they did not feel bullied. We have also had some parents who were real bullies -"if I don't get my way I will tell the Berkeley Parent Network/School Board/community what a terrible school this is."
Parents should honestly look at why their child is being bullied. I remember one Kindergarten student who would say to a child (of another race) "my mother says I should feel sorry for you because your dad's in jail", I'm smarter than you", etc. It's not hard to figure out why she was bullied. I have a pet theory that parents - all of us - send our kids to school with our own expectations and fears. White parents fear their kids will get beat up by black kids; black parents feel their child will be looked down on and deprecated. It's my feeling that the latter happens more than the former. That would speak to how bullies are made through poor self esteem, along with the responses of parents and kids who misinterpret different types of "play" among kids of different races.
As for teachers being bullies...is it bullying for the teacher to be in charge and expect everyone to follow the rules? Apparently in Berkeley it is. My 2 words for that? Home schooling.
Sorry for the lengthy post...back to dealing with "but he did it first"...