My name is Caleb, and I was bullied... heavily. I was beat up, called a "puto" (fag), "marica" (pussy), "culebra" (snake; because I was skinny), I was publicly ridiculed because of my good grades (which can really screw up a kid's priorities), and thrown into trash cans making me feel, literally, like trash. I can still smell the rotten banana in my face.
I was bullied. So, to the parents that are going to read this and don't like it and are going to defend themselves with saying that I don't have children, that I don't know what I'm talking about, to those parents I say, "I was bullied. In this regard, I know your children better than you. In this regard, you don't know what you're talking about."
Words can hurt more than punches (believe you me). "Standing up to the bully" for many parents means to punch back or insult back. It doesn't work, it just escalates it into other kinds of violence. What it really does is to create bullies from the bullied, and I know, I was one too. It was thought as the "natural order of things": you get beat up by stronger kids, so you beat up the weaker than you. It doesn't work, it just feeds itself.
The problem with all of this is that it is thought that the solution can be brought from outside the home: the school should be a safe haven for kids from violence, punish bullies from saying "bad or offensive words" (like faggot or pussy, as if they wouldn't make up another word with the same sentiment behind it), bring in the police if necessary.
What about the parents? The usual is to not even bring up the concept of talking to the bully's parents because "most of them won't care". My answer is "fine, then don't". Although, for the record, it may be possible to make a case that raising a kid to be violent is a type of child abuse. Still, my point when asking that question is not about the bully's parents, I'm talking about the bullied's parents.
The reason why I'm still here, not having committed suicide (which I thought of, a lot), is because of my mom. She ripped it out of me one day, when I came back from school after getting beat up (which I usually hid because of shame). Bullies are smart, they will hit you in places that are difficult to notice scars or bruises. Once she forced me to confess (she knew when I was hiding something, still does) and saw what was done to me, she didn't call the principal, she didn't call the other kid's parents, she talked to me, and what she told me became the prologue to my fight against bullying: "They didn't do this because you did something wrong, it was because there is something wrong with them."
That completely turned the whole ordeal around for me. It wasn't instantaneous, it took a while to wrap my head around it (years even), but the prime feeling that I used to feel for them shifted from anger/hate to sympathy. I tried to find out what was happening to each of them, to get a backstory of why they were so angry, and every time I was put in front of their anger I knew why it was happening. I didn't say a word in the beginning, but almost at the end of junior high, I started to speak up. Not in an insulting manner, but as an offering "I know why you're doing this. If it makes you feel better, go ahead."
Radical I know, but that sentiment was disarming, even to the point that a couple of times I made friends that way. Not "lets go to the movies together" type of friends, but more of the type of "I won't call you 'culebra' anymore", which, given the circumstances, was a step up.
In one occasion, a bully and I were in the principal office because somebody found him with his hands around my neck. I made up a story of why I my neck was red ("I had an itch, so these scratches are from that."). The bully at first thought that I was making it up for the sake of not tattling (which would've meant more hurt after for me). The principal knew I was lying, and asked me if I was sure that's what happened, and after I said "I don't want him to get in trouble because of a silly misunderstanding" his face changed. He knew I meant "trouble" as in "get beat up by his dad". His face remained changed the rest of my stay in that school.
When one bully (one of the harshest) was being considered for expulsion from the school, the principal and some teachers came to our group and asked our opinion. When my turn came to speak I said that "He has friends in this class that make him happy." (alluring to the fact that he wasn't happy at home) The principal responded that I was one of the persons that he most aggravated. I responded "I didn't say I was one of them. But, he's still a classmate." Coincidentally, when he was let back into the school, he avoided me. Again, a step up from the routine.
It wasn't easy, and, sometimes even brought more hurt than good, but my parents were always there to talk it over (which we did, a lot), always watching that I wasn't getting too hurt, and always telling me that they were proud of the sentiment I had behind of what I was doing. It made me a better person, I think, and brought me closer to my parents as well as my classmates (at least, some of them). It made me realize that a "bully" is not a criminal that we should lock away and forget, but only a troubled kid that needs help, and maybe I can do something, if only a little.
I think this is the way to tackle the "bullying problem": yes, with the parents, but with all of them (both the bully's and the bullied's). The school is not somewhere you just drop your kids and having them returned as complete human beings. If you think that the school is a safe haven for anything, you're giving it too much credit. The teachers provide knowledge and, sometimes, inspiration; the curriculum, some structure; the cafeteria, bad food. Other than that, it is up to the kids and their parents to get along. There are going to be bullies throughout the child's life, and making him/her a victim will only come back to bite him/her in the ass in the long run. So, I propose to use the situation as a learning opportunity for sympathy towards somebody that really needs it; to not to "stand up to the bully", but "stand up with the bully". I bet it'll be the best lesson your kid will ever learn from school.