I have said similar things to my children. The fact is, they don't have to like everyone and they definitely don't have to be friends with everyone - in school or out. They do have to treat others with civility and kindness (which includes NOT saying things like "no one likes you"), and as far as time at school, I agree with inclusive play policies - "you can't say you can't play".
If that is essentially what the teacher said to these children, and she does not tolerate bullying at school, then I have no issue with telling children that they don't have to be friends outside of school hours.
Well, maybe it's a consequence of different experiences. My kids are the ones who adapt easily to get along with others. They have strong social skills and are often picked to be buddies for new students or help out with younger kids etc. Teachers, camp counselors, other parents often tried to pair them up with other kids and force friendships. Some of these other kids were bullies. Some had different styles of play or personalities that didn't gel with my kids' styles. Some just had different interests and likes. My dc often felt guilty about having a preference for playing with some children and not others. After-school playdates became hectic and unmanageable while they tried to be fair to everyone. Having adults use their ostensible authority to guilt them further and try to co-erce them into spending "free" time with people with whom they really didn't enjoy playing wasn't healthy at all for them. I saw them developing unhealthy, passive-aggressive coping mechanisms. It was much more honest to say, be inclusive, be kind, be tolerant, but you aren't going to like everyone and you don't have to be friends with people you don't like. Life got a lot better when they learned some diplomatic, tactful ways to set up and maintain boundaries.
I agree with these posts (and my kid was the one who was often excluded at this old school!). I'm not friends with everyone. I like some people better than I do others. People feel the same way about me. I'm closer to some friends than to other friends. And so forth. Trying to force children to be friends with everyone is just not going to work and pretending that we're all friends is just silly. We're not and the children are not all friends with each other either.
Classrooms should be safe places. If children have difficult or awkward or just plain "weird" behaviors, the teachers should work with the children and their parents to moderate those behaviors, as well as with the other children to accept and understand each other. Children should be taught politeness, civility, and respect for one another. But no one should be forced to be "friends" with another child because, as the post above says, that just leads to passive-aggressive behaviors.
This is all very true. It is also, to my understanding, very off topic.
This is not about parents telling their children that they don't have to be friends with others in their free time, or teachers telling parents the same thing if the subject comes up because a parent thinks an anti-bullying measure amounts to "forcing friendships" (because they are adults and should understand the difference so they can explain it to their child, if need be). Yes, a teacher has no call to tell children who to be friends with in their free time. She, IMO, also has no call to tell them it's okay not to be friends in their free time. It's out of her sphere. But more importantly, it's also off topic on the part of the teacher and clouds the issue.
The issue is whether it's okay to tell another child hurtful things like "you're dumb" or discriminatory slights like "you're gay" - that is NOT about being friends or not (some children bully their "friends" like this, too - some children take it, glad they aren't otherwise excluded or targets for worse). That is about a behavioral issue of the bully.
The OP's child has friends. He does not need anyone to force a friendship for him - not that that works in the long run, as Ollyoxenfree points out (if he didn't have any friends at all, it would make the situation more complicated, but sometimes friends simply withdraw if the bullies are bad enough and turn into bystanders, afraid of becoming targets themselves.). He needs for the bullies to leave him alone.
By talking about friendship, the teacher has been conflating the issues. I agree that she is probably trying her best, but as long as she conflates the two, she is part of the problem, not part of the solution. How are her kindergartners to understand the difference, if she doesn't, and doesn't live it! Same as for the comment "he brings it on himself you know" - it is NOT good enough to say "oh, she just meant to say that your child can be empowered to act so he won't be an easy target". The wording shows she IS, at least partly, blaming the victim for unacceptable behaviour on the part of the bullies, so again conflating to different issues, and kindergartners WILL pick this up.
I do agree with other posters who think that, her heart being in the right place, there is still a chance she will eventually step up to her responsibility. But she needs to understand what it is.
Different experiences can cloud the issues for us I'm sure. But looking back on my own experiences, it really wasn't so much about the bullies not wanting to play with me whcih was the problem (not that I wouldn't have preferred them to be friends as opposed to being my enemies, of course, and we actually had a lot of interaction, not all of it hostile, we weren't so different in the end) but about them spreading lies about me to children who would have wanted to play with me, and being encouraged to do so by parents and teachers. Yes, I have proof of this - by middle/high school, I was friends both with the worst bullies and the children they had tried to put off. Yes, some mothers actually sic their children on other kids at the kitchen table! And teachers who do not understand this (or do not want to understand this, because they subconsciously agree with the mothers) just make the problem worse. While I am sure middle and high school bullying must be different, this experience has has made me very distrustful about adults who have power over children trying to frame bullying in terms of children's likes and friendships in the early grades.