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Katy Butler, a high-school student from Michigan and a onetime target of bullying, poses with boxes containing more than 210,000 petition signatures that she is delivering to the Los Angeles office of the Motion Picture Association of America to urge the MPAA to lower the rating of the documentary Bully from R to PG-13, in Los Angeles, March 7, 2012.

Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

A graphic film about bullying has parents and censors divided over whether kids should see it without an adult.

Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully contains disturbing scenes showing kids being swarmed and punched in the face and stomach. But it's the f-bombs in the film that landed it an R rating in the United States, according to the Associated Press.

Katy Butler, a 17-year-old activist from Ann Arbor, Mich., has collected more than 200,000 signatures on a petition to have the rating changed to PG-13, reports.

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"This could change bullying and save lives," Ms. Butler told the Associated Press.

The film's distributor, Weinstein Co., has sought to have the R rating changed, but the Motion Picture Association of America has denied the appeal.

In British Columbia, however, the film received a PG rating with an additional warning of "coarse language; theme of bullying." Scheduled for Canadian release on April 6, the film is awaiting movie ratings set by film boards in other provinces.

American film critic Kevin Carr argues that even with an R-rating, Bully can be viewed by children under 17 who are accompanied by an adult. "Bullying starts in the home," he writes, "and most children would get more out of the film if they actually saw it with their parents so they can have a frank family discussion about this behaviour."

But movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is reportedly protesting the R rating in part because it prevents the film from being screened in U.S. schools.

Meanwhile, at, blogger Shawn Bean is urging U.S. parents to take their kids to see the film regardless of the R rating.

In one scene, he points out, bullies bash a kid's face into the bus seat in front of him. But when the boy's mother contacts the school, an administrator insists that the kids on the bus "are as good as gold."

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In the campaign to end bullying, "a brutal R-rated eye-opener might be exactly what grown-ups and kids need," he writes.

Should film boards make exceptions to their rating systems for a film such as Bully? Would you take your child to see a violent film with coarse language to educate against bullying?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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