As children, most parents likely experienced bullying as someone bigger and meaner physically threatening someone smaller or weaker. Bullying is still a problem in schools, but the nature of the intimidation is more likely to be gossiping, spreading rumors, and name-calling. These anti-social behaviors are often dismissed as a "normal part of growing up" but they do more damage to children's well-being and academic performance than most people realize.
In an attempt to stop bullying and the damage done by the behavior, schools are trying to make the school environment more respectful instead of the "zero-tolerance" policies that removed bullies from classrooms. In an effort to do this, schools are having to acknowledge the underlying factors that lead to negative behavior, one of which is the discriminatory modeling of parents.
Children in all grade levels use "difference" as a reason to discriminate, exclude, or make fun of their peers. Perceived distinctions based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, sexual orientation, body type or mental ability are the basis of harassment, specially in middle school. It is important that we as parents model behavior that is respectful of all people and that our language does not inadvertently suggest that someone is "less than" us in any way.
Be conscious of what you say to people today and every day - you may be surprised by the messages you are sending to your children.