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J.C. Penney ad encourages bullying, some parents say  

Aug. 14, 2013 at 2:04 PM ET

Is it a troubling example of bullying or much ado about nothing? A back-to-school commercial from J.C. Penney that has aired this summer is getting lots of attention from parents, some of whom say it sends the wrong message.

The ad, narrated by a woman singing the praises of the department store chain as she shops for her kids, emphasizes J.C. Penney has all the “brands they have to have.”

“I’ve been told this stuff can make or break your entire year,” the woman says in the voice over as the commercial shows a boy sitting in the cafeteria surrounded by friends. Suddenly, all the friends are gone, and the boy is sitting alone, looking around wistfully. Watch for yourself.

Some parents are interpreting the ad to mean that children who don’t wear the right clothes can expect to be ostracized in school. Many have taken to J.C. Penney’s Facebook page in recent days to express their displeasure.

“Why would your marketing crew blatantly suggest that what kids wear will make or break their entire school year? Your television ad is a slap in the face to children, teenagers, parents, communities and organizations who are working hard to bring awareness to the majority of our nation about the epidemic of peer abuse,” one commenter wrote. 

“I find your back to school ad disturbing. I cannot believe that you would place more pressure on children by telling them that their clothes can either 'make or break' a child. Let me tell you what can make or break a child. BULLYING!” another added. 

But other comments on the Facebook page are defending the store and the ad, calling it innocuous and the parents who criticize it oversensitive. 

“I know what bullying is, I have been there. So you people who think it is an ad promoting bullying need to get that head examined,” one man wrote. 

“The ‘cool for school’ theme has been used by retailers for years. Get a grip. People like you are looking for a reason to be offended,” added another. 

In a statement to TODAY Moms, J.C. Penney said it was not its intent to trivialize or promote bullying. The ad, which is part of a handful of back-to-school TV ads the company is producing this season, aired earlier this summer but is no longer part of J.C. Penney’s TV campaign, the company noted.

“We're committed to carrying a broad range of styles that let kids express their individuality and make a positive first impression. Our marketing is meant to inspire kids to create and reveal their look as they head back to school this season,” the company said.

What do you think? Let us know on the TODAY Moms Facebook page.

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