The filmmakers, led by producer Harvey Weinstein, officially appealed the rating, saying the film offers an important message to children about the effects of bullying, but the MPAA's appeals board denied the motion on Feb. 23
Nearly 500,000 people signed an online petition asking former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), now the head of the MPAA, to reverse his organization's decision.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged her Twitter followers to sign the petition, and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) gathered signatures from 35 members of Congress for a letter asking Dodd to change his mind.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the ‘R’ rating is there because it's real. It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days,” director Lee Hirsch said in a statement. “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."
An MPAA spokeswoman said the organization "respects the right of the Weinstein Company to choose to release this film unrated."
“It is not uncommon for filmmakers to choose to release a film unrated and it does not prevent the company from resubmitting the film in a modified version to be rated again at a future date," she said. "The MPAA believes this film raises an important conversation on the subject of bullying in our nation’s schools."
--Updated at 11:47 a.m.