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Wis. school district bans first graders from singing Cyrus-Parton duet 'Rainbowland' at concert

The Waukesha School District said the “song could be deemed controversial." The school instead suggested the class sing “Rainbow Connection,” from “The Muppet Movie.”
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A Wisconsin school district has banned a first grade class from singing Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton’s duet “Rainbowland” because it was deemed “controversial” and conflicting with school policy.

Melissa Tempel, a teacher at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, tweeted March 21 that her first graders were “so excited” to sing "Rainbowland" for a spring concert but that administrators vetoed it. 

The 2017 song talks about working together and living in harmony, with lyrics like “’Cause I know if we try, we could really make a difference in this world” and “Living in a Rainbowland … Where we’re free to be exactly who we are / Let’s all dig down deep inside / Brush the judgment and fear aside.”

Venting her frustration over being barred from using the song, Tempel tweeted, “When will it end?”

The Waukesha School District said in a statement Friday that there's an approval process for instances like these. 

In this case, a teacher suggested “Rainbowland” to the music teacher, who checked with the principal, who checked with the central office administrator, “so they could review the song together and alongside our Board Policy 2240 — Controversial Issues in the Classroom.” The district policy describes what determines whether a topic is controversial and says such matters must be approved by the principal.

“They determined that the song could be deemed controversial in accordance with the policy," the district said.

In 2017, Parton told Taste of Country the song was about inspiring hope and positivity.

“It’s really about if we could love one another a little better or be a little kinder, be a little sweeter, we could live in rainbow land,” Parton said. “It’s really just about dreaming and hoping that we could all do better. It’s a good song for the times right now.”

In the end, the principal asked the music teacher to choose a different song, and “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog was selected. 

Tempel said on Twitter that officials later turned their backs against the class’ singing "Rainbow Connection," from “The Muppet Movie,” which led her to suspect there was an issue with the use of rainbows. The class ultimately stuck with "Rainbow Connection" after “parents sent emails to admin,” Tempel said.

Tempel said the controversy over the song was much bigger than her classroom.

"The Rainbowland story is about much more than a banned song. The result of the political pushback on LGBTQ+ inclusivity and rights in schools is unfolding and it’s tragic," she tweeted.

The district didn't elaborate on why "Rainbowland" was so controversial to begin with.

“This entire matter has been reviewed and the outcomes are fully supported by the Superintendent. At no time was the Board of Education involved in this matter,” the district said.

Tempel tweeted Friday: "The latest I heard is that the song was banned bc @MileyCyrus is controversial. D’oh, I thought for sure it was @DollyParton and her beautiful drag queen followers! Oh well, I can’t stop my students if they still sing Rainbowland. It’s a fun, catchy song!"

The incident is the latest political showdown in school boards and classrooms across the country, which have hosted intense debates over how sexuality, gender identity and race are taught. District Superintendent James Sebert had prohibited rainbows and pride flags from being displayed in Waukesha classrooms, The Associated Press reported.