Parent Outrage Over ‘Rainbowland’ Song Ban at Wisconsin School

A Wisconsin mother has reacted with anger after her first-grader was banned from performing Miley Cyrus‘ and Dolly Parton‘s song “Rainbowland” at a school concert.

Sarah Schneidler explained how her daughter was set to perform with her classmates for their spring concert at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha.

The 2017 song from Cyrus’ album Younger Now is a duet with her godmother Parton. It was inspired by her former recording studio of the same name, which later burned down in the 2018 Californian wildfires. The song says that it would be “nice to live in paradise” to be “free to be exactly who we are,” away from judgment and fear.

dolly parton and miley cyrus singing
Dolly Parton (left) and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Their song “Rainbowland” has been banned from a Wisconsin school.
Lester Cohen/Getty Images North America

Schneidler told how her daughter came home one day from school and said, “nope, we’re not allowed to sing that song anymore.”

“In the song, there is a lyric that says, ‘different colors, every [kind] coming together,’ and in Waukesha, there’s been a lot of pressure to get rid of things like that, [such as] talk of diversity and talk of inclusion,” Schneidler told CNN.

The school decided to scrap the song after two parents made enquiries about it. The music teacher, principal and central office administrator then took the decision to ban the song. The move was backed by Jim Sebert, superintendent at School District of Waukesha.

He explained that the song was removed as it “could be perceived as controversial.” He pointed to school board policy that prevented raising political or controversial topics in classrooms.

Sebert added to CNN that the school banned the song because it might not have been “appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students.”

The first-grade teacher who chose the song for her students to perform said she thought it suited the concert theme of ‘The World.’ The children would also be singing “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

“My students were just devastated. They really liked this song, and we had already begun singing it,” teacher Melissa Tempel told NPR.

She said she was concerned about what the ban and ongoing crackdown of inclusive practices would mean for LGBTQ+ students in the district.

“These confusing messages about rainbows are ultimately creating a culture that seems unsafe towards queer people,” Tempel added.

Superintendent Sebert placed a ban on rainbow Pride flags in classrooms across the district and also scrapped its equity and diversity programs.

Another teacher at the school lamented the banning of “Rainbowland.”

“The School District of Waukesha has really cracked down on anything LGBTQ+,” Leigh Radichel Tracy told the Los Angeles Times. “So this song being an ‘issue’ has not in any way come as a surprise.

“All that Miley and Dolly are saying is that they want to live in a world that is accepting, with no judgment and where people can be who they want to be,” she said.

“It’s so sad that this is seen as a ‘controversial issue’ by the School District of Waukesha. It’s a song about a beautiful place of acceptance.”

Parton has explained the meaning behind the song to be the hope that “we could love one another a little better or be a little kinder.”

“It’s really just about dreaming and hoping that we could all do better. It’s a good song for the times right now,” Parton told the Taste of Country podcast in 2017.

Her duet partner Cyrus told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show that the song was about celebrating everyone’s differences.

“So it’s saying, if all of us are so different and we all look so different and different shades of humanity, what a rainbow we could really be and live in that land and celebrate it,” Cyrus said in 2017.

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