This is a difficult problem, no matter what side you approach it from. However, your school’s attitude is not helpful, as you know.
Ideally, these things should be taken care of within the population of kids, but they rarely are. We want our kids to be able to defend themselves, or deflect a bully, but they almost never have the skill set to do that. Oh, sure, there will be a couple of kids here and there who can either physically defend themselves, or the quick-witted one who can come up with a quip that not only pulls the rug out from under the bully but entertains the bystanders. But most kids are not equipped in any way to deal with a bully. And, the rules against fighting back tie kids’ hands - it was not that way when I was in school back in the day. As long as we fought off school grounds, we could fight and every couple of weeks there would be some altercation (always between boys) and they’d end up as friends or at least in respect of each other. The older brothers of boys being picked on had a way of showing up when the bully didn’t expect it and suddenly … no more bullying. Now days, if a kid fought back, HE or SHE would be the one sent to A-school!
Parents don’t know what to do about bullying either. Our older son was verbally bullied by another boy in his class, for several years during elementary school. Since our son was more popular than the other boy, I expected his friends to stick up for him and tell the other boy to cut it out. They never did. I read a lot about this and bystanders to bullying as a rule DO NOT get involved. There are several reasons - one is a fear that the bully will then turn to them. Another is uncertainty and again, not knowing what to do. Peer pressure causes them to be afraid to speak up too.
Our son did not have any physical symptoms of anxiety. His grades did not go down. He did not want to stay home from school, and he maintained a decent sense of self-esteem, at least to all outward appearances. We did not want to intervene on his behalf if he was not being affected, since we were aware that it might actually do more harm (more bullying, more covert bullying) than good. We tried to let our son know that it was wrong and we tried to support him in standing up to the bully. He is a rather introverted person and at that time, he did not have the physical size or bulk to feel confident. And over time, the bullying did affect him. He really didn’t understand why his good friends didn’t stick up for him. That may have been the worst thing for him in the end, to feel all alone without allies.
If I could do it over, I would definitely talk to the school. I would insist that they intervene. I would NOT want my son to have to confront his bully, nor would I want the 2 families to confront or have any contact. I would urge that the school discuss bullying out in the open, especially to emphasize to ALL the kids that if they see or hear bullying, they should help intervene. That to me is the critical element, because teachers are not in eyesight of the students at all times. A bully can find an opportunity, especially if it’s a verbal bully. Nasty comments can be said under the breath so the teacher or other adult cannot hear. But other kids are usually around and can help by speaking up, “WHAT did you say to Tiffany? Did you call her a name?” in a loud voice. Bullies don’t like attention on their actions.
I think we did the best we could with the information we had, but I would go back now and do it differently. Unfortunately this boy was with our son right through elementary and then re-appeared in high school (our son went to a different high school). As is true with a lot of bullies (not all of them, some are VERY popular), he had few friends - most people saw him for an angry, ill-tempered, hostile little fellow and shunned him. And it took years, but we think our son is finally past the hit on his self-image that the bully did.
I would bring it up to the pastor, the school again (insist that they deal with this problem, you have seen it and heard it personally so you aren’t just carrying tales), and maybe even call a meeting of the PTA or PTO to discuss it. You could mention that the local TV stations might be interested in hearing about the bullying problem and the school’s uncaring attitude. Not as a threat, but as one way to bring attention to the very real problem.