It seems to me that a lot of the problem here lies in perspective.Everyone keeps complaining that the public school system does not do enough to prevent or punish bullying and there are complaints about how, without an adult witness, the issue becomes a matter of one story versus another without corroboration. One writer references the legal system and the legal definition of "assault" in her post...
The reality is that we are all social creatures and responsible for our own fate. That is what it means to be human. Parents (or other in certain instances) are the guardians of their childrens' fates, but this responsibility is gradually handed over to the child. In other words, the child will eventually have to deal with social stress on his/her own, at a social level coincident with his/her age. The parent's reaction to bullying is essentially a lesson to the child in stress management: if the child is withdrawn from school, he/she will likely learn that withdrawal (flight) is a legitimate response to pressure. If the child grows into an adult and takes this attitude into the workplace, success in that workplace is unlikely.
And yes, a threat and a gesture that cause fear in a victim can support a tort claim (civil lawsuit) or a criminal prosecution, both of which are forms of government intervention. Welcome to America where the school system is run by a government agency (everything is, right?). When a formal complaint is made -- with a school employee, a policeman, or a judge -- evidence is required. Do we really want it any other way? How would you like your child to be punished for bullying on the word of another child with no other supporting evidence?
At the very root of this is the fact that it is the child's family's responsibility to protect the child from bullies -- not the state's (school system's). In many cases, much of the bullying does not fall under the public school system's authority. Making slanderous posts on facebook after school, harassment at the bus stop... The parent clearly has a responsibility to prevent this. The fact that bullying goes on in public schools is no big surprise. With parents leaving responsibility for their children's physical and psychological well-being in the hands of a public institution that is primarily concerned with academic learning.
My advice: if your child has problems at school, and school authorities are unable or unwilling to do anything about it, then maybe the parent should collect evidence and take it to the bully's parents. Or even take the issue to them without evidence -- assuming that you trust your child.
Whatever the case, it is not the government's responsibility to take care of my family; it is mine. I embrace that responsibility. I am not trying to pass the buck or hand the responsibility over to the government. If I had a bullied child, I would stop the bullying. The buck stops here where my family is concerned; and I don't want anyone else getting all the credit.