IF YOU WATCH
What: The Long Family from Murray County, Ga., on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to discuss the upcoming film "Bully."
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: WRCB-TV Channel 3
It was about 6 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2009, when David Long found his 17-year-old son Tyler hanging in his closet in their home in Murray County, Ga.
The suicide was Tyler's response to years of nonstop bullying within the halls of Murray County High School and the school not intervening, said his mother, Tina.
"He had a great summer. He had his own little job, and a little car that he loved to drive everywhere," she said. "When school started back up, there it was again."
The story of the Long family's loss, along with several other families' struggles, is part of the upcoming documentary "Bully," which opens in limited release on March 30 and is scheduled to start at the Rave Cinemas in the third week of April.
"Bully" follows the true stories of students and families who have been affected by bullying from their peers. The Long family appeared on "Nightline" Wednesday night and will be on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" today.
"Never before has there been an opportunity like this to enlighten a lot of people," said David Long, who has seen "Bully" with Tina several times. "It's unbelievable what you see in this film that happens in schools. Kids shouldn't suffer going to school."
"Everyone should see it," Tina added.
But everyone may not get the opportunity. The Motion Picture Association of America recently gave an R rating to "Bully" so children under 17 are required to have an adult with them when they see it, according to the MPAA website. The film got the rating for "language," mostly the use of the f-word.
Despite already being shown in schools in Chicago and Long Island, an R-rated "Bully" could prevent, or at least make it difficult, for the documentary to be seen by adolescents and teenagers -- either the ones being bullied or the bullies themselves -- or be shown in more schools, which director Lee Hirsch said is the intent.
Last weekend, the Long family traveled to Washington, D.C., to appeal the MPAA rating and ask for a more demographic-friendly PG-13. They were joined by Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., the film's distributor, and other families featured in the film.
A petition to change the MPAA rating to PG-13 at Change.org currently has over 440,000 signatures.
One segment of the film focuses on a junior high student named Alex from Sioux City, Iowa. Just like Tyler, Alex suffers from Asperger's syndrome, Tina Long said, but unlike Tyler, he is still alive. The film features raw footage of Alex being bullied on a school bus and having harsh profanity aimed at him.
"During the appeal, Alex stood up and said he can't see his own movie because of the R rating," Tina Long said. "A girl next to me stood up and said, 'Reality is not censored,' and she was so right."
For now, it looks as if their appeal was ineffective, and "Bully" will keep its R rating, David Long said.
If the "Bully" filmmakers censor out the profanity enough times, it could obtain the PG-13 rating, but to censor the language would sugarcoat the issue, producer Cynthia Lowen said.
"[Foul language] is a part of bullying. To not include that language in the film is glossing over how hard it is to sometimes go to school or get on that bus," she said. "Censoring it would not show how pervasive bullying really is."
After learning that "Bully" had a local angle, Alan Northrop, manager of Rave Cinemas, called his film booking agency and scheduled the film for the third week of April.
However, if "Bully" arrives at Rave with its R rating, Northrop said the theater will adhere to its policy, and anyone under 17 will have to be accompanied by a parent. Ignoring the policy could result in the theater being fined up to $50,000 by the Federal Trade Commission, he said.
Another option is for "Bully" to circumvent an MPAA rating altogether, the Longs said. Rave could still show it because there is no steadfast policy for unrated films, Northrop said.
As a child, Chattanooga's Department of Education, Arts and Culture administrator Missy Crutchfield said she was bullied, and even saw her son be bullied after he stood up against a bully in school.
Crutchfield said her department is in talks with Carmike Theaters to host an event surrounding the film "Bully," which would include a screening and possibly have the Long family make an appearance at the event.
"The movie would give us an opportunity to bring conversation back and take it to another level," she said.