03/27/2012 at 09:00 AM EDT
After nearly 500,000 people signed a petition
– and stars such as Ellen DeGeneres
and Justin Bieber
lent their support to the cause – the Weinstein Company announced Monday evening it would release the documentary Bully
without a rating.
The decision comes after the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) refused to change its initial R rating, which drew controversy and attention because it would have limited the film's audience as viewers under 17 would have to be accompanied by adults to see the film.
The MPAA granted the film, due out March 30, its R rating because of strong language.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the ‘R’ rating is there because it's real," Bully
's director Lee Hirsch said in a statement Monday.
"It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we're grateful for the support we've received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it's up to the theaters to let them in."
A Michigan high school student, Katy Butler, started a petition last month to change the film's R rating to PG-13 on Change.org
. Butler has suffered a broken finger at the hands of school bullies – and earned support from 26 members of Congress in addition to those who signed her online petition.
"The brief use of explicit language in this film reflects what so many kids hear each day in school when they’re being bullied," Butler said in a statement. "The MPAA said they wouldn’t drop the 'R' rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure."