‘Bully’ Director Lee Hirsch Talks About What Families Can Do to Prevent Bullying

The documentary film Bully just received a PG-13 rating, which means that kids can see it on their own. Its director, Lee Hirsch, talks to Emily-Anne Rigel, an 18-year-old anti-bullying advocate, about what families can do to stop the problem.

Chris Pizzello / AP Photo

On Thursday the Weinstein Co. announced that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had agreed to a rating change for the documentary film Bully, lowering its rating from an R to PG-13. The film had debuted March 30 in limited release without a rating, and the Weinstein Co. agreed to make a few changes to receive the more permissive rating, including removing three uses of the F word. The documentary has received positive reviews for its portrayal of students bullied by their peers. Now it can be seen by those about whom it was made without being chaperoned by a parent or guardian.

Emily-Anne Rigal is an 18-year-old anti-bullying advocate and founder of WeStopHate.org., who works with other teens to find ways to eradicate bullying. Recently she spoke with Lee Hirsch, the director of Bully. Here is her report:

I asked Lee Hirsch to name the most common mistake parents make when they believe their child is being bullied. Underestimating the damage being done, he replied. He believes that if a child is talking about being bullying, a parent should assume that what is happening is worse than what the child is saying. Parents need to realize that it is their right to ensure that their child is safe at school, and if the response from the school or teacher is unsatisfactory, parents must keep pressing the school to show their child that they are standing with them. Hirsch has noticed that sometimes parents get intimidated and brushed aside, but it is their right to intercede. But they do need to be educated on school policies, he says. He also recommends documenting what is going on and putting it in writing.

Asked to name the most heroic thing he has ever seen a parent do, Hirsch said that parents are heroic all the time. He believes every family in Bully is extraordinary for sharing their lives on camera.

Finally, Hirsch said he would love for children and teens to understand the power they have to stop bullying the next time they see or hear it happening. There are so many ways for kids to be change-makers, he said. Some kids have the comfort level to stop bullying directly, while others have different strategies that include sending a note or finding the victim later and saying, “Come sit with me,” or “Let’s talk to someone together.” His final advice: simply be creative with ways to become an upstander.