I recently discovered that my child had been on the receiving end of behaviour that could definitely be described as bullying. My response to this was threefold.
1. Has it happened more than once?
An isolated incident is so prone to misunderstanding, mis-reporting and mis-remembering as to be unworthy of action*,
2. Have you told your teacher?
Since the answer to 1. was "yes". Since this answer was "no" I told him to tell his teacher immediately if it happens again.
3. Did you do anything to provoke this? (ie excluding or ridiculing the kid in question)
I don't know the answer to this question, and it isn't important that I do. It's only important that my kid considers whether he conrtibuted to bullying that may now be bouncing back on him. Bullying is never justified, but it might be explicable. Lots of bullies felt bullied themselves. As young kids, there isn't even necessarily a separation in time.
I've been really surprised at the number of people who have been uncomfortable that I asked the third question. There seems to be a strange assumption that if I see wrong in my child's behaviour, that it somehow absolves the behaviour of the other child. There is no logical imperative there. A situation can have essentially an infinite number of wrongs. None of them excuses another.
The other weird aspect of this that I can't get my head around, is that it feels like people divide kids into "good kids that might get bullied" and "bad kids that might bully others". Of course, I don't think anyone thinks their kid falls into the latter category. But just because my kid was being bullied, doesn't mean he wasn't doing his own bullying. I don't believe my kid meant to hurt anyone (wow, you'll be stunned by that) but then, I suspect the other kid involved in this situation just thought his behaviour was hilarious. I very much doubt he meant to hurt anyone either. But if we draw the battle lines now, at age 7, between those who we deem as "bad" and those deemed as "good" instead of recognising that bad behaviour begets bad behaviour, irrespective of motives, we create the environment that fosters a "hurt them before they hurt you" bullying mentality.
Later on, there is definitely a disconnect - those bullied rarely "provoked" the attack. But everyone, always, stands accountable for their actions. Two wrongs certainly don't make a right, but one wrong is even less likely to define a right on the other side. When A and B disagree, if I conclude that A is wrong, there is no logic that implies that I think B is right. This is possibly one of the most dangerous, and divisive failures in logic, and it invades our lives daily. I mean, I couldn't possibly fall foul of it, I am way too smart. (Yeah, right)
Most importantly, if we don't recognise the fuck ups of the past, on all sides, we can't move on and stop repeating them.
*Clearly, this is exempting extreme actions, I am discussing playground nastiness, not criminal behaviour