A bunch of first grade boys and girls were playing soccer at recess. One boy, Devastator, was particularly aggressive and slide tackled two kids. The playground rules is, "no slide tackles."
On the third slide tackle he hurts a boy who starts to cry. Devastator laughs and says, "sorry fucknuts, no crying in baseball!" and runs off. He is wearing goalie gloves. A girl says, "hey, no slide tackling-- you're going to hurt someone!" Devastator spits on the ground, comes over, gets right in her face, puts his fist up against her nose and says, "you better go back to where you came from, or you're going to get exactly what's coming to you." I don't know who taught this kid to talk. I assume TV.
The game immediately resumes, no one challenges him. Soon, he slide tackles another boy. The same girl, in defiance of Devastator, yells, "hey, no slide tackles!"
Devastator approaches slowly to close the distance, then suddenly sprints towards her. Another boy just manages to grab a shoulder but can't hold it, so he slows Devastator down for only a second, but long enough for the girl to get a head start running. He chases her-- she runs to the teacher and he quickly doubles back to the soccer field.
The girl tells her story, and the teacher responds, "just don't go near him. I'll talk to him. Go play a different game, I don't want him hurting you."
Later, the girl tells her mother, who calls the school. The teacher tells the mother that they have had a lot of trouble with that boy already, they are handling the problem, but in the meantime it's best if the girl simply stay away from him. "She was really brave, but we don't want her to get hurt or for him to fixate on her, so it's best if she stays out of it."
Bullying? Or regular playground stuff? You can New York Magazine this story and say that Devastator is carrying around a lot of anger and the school needs to intervene. If he's willing to threaten a girl and then actually try to attack her, he's destined for trouble and a full Nautica wardrobe. Is this what we want?
If that's the magazine you like, then you have to wonder if the school is really doing enough to protect her and the others? And what's their policy on violence towards women? If the girl hadn't said anything, would he have gone unnoticed only to date rape a 3rd grader?
But Devastator isn't the important person in this story.
This girl stood up to the bully not to protect herself but for the sake of others-- and rather than supporting this behavior, the school crushed it in the interest of expediency and "safety."
If there is any value you do want to encourage in kids, it's looking out for each other. The girl had it; the boy who tried to snag Devastator also had it. Those were reflexes, they didn't plan this out over morning waffles, but whatever was going on at home and in their heads lead them to have, and to follow, those impulses.
But the school fostered the reverse value: "don't get involved, take care of yourself, let the Watchers handle it. That's their job." Note that the school didn't inadvertently teach her not to look out for others, it specifically instructed her not to look out for others. "We'll handle it."
I'm not saying she should have fought him (and I'm not not saying it, either), but what kind of school doesn't want a kid to stand up to a bully, especially when they're doing it to help someone else? What kind of crazy school wants you to back down-- and get someone else to protect you? What kind of school indoctrinates kids that power is only possessed by a) bad people; b) the state?
Oh. All of them.