Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus' 'Rainbowland' banned from first-grade spring concert

Emily St. Martin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"Rainbowland," a song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus that celebrates acceptance, was recently banned from a spring concert set list at a Wisconsin elementary school.

Sarah Schindler's first-grade daughter came home from school last week, eager to show her mom the songs she'd be performing in the spring concert. She pulled up the songs on YouTube, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection" from "The Muppet Movie," and a song she'd never heard before — "Rainbowland," by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus.

Schindler said they were excited: "We love Dolly Parton!"

But a few days ago, her daughter returned home from school, and as soon as she walked through the door, she broke the news. "We can't sing it anymore. We can't sing 'Rainbow Connection' and we can't sing 'Rainbowland.'"

Schindler promptly reached out to Melissa Tempel, her daughter's teacher, as well as the principal of the school, and phoned the school district superintendent. She was told the administration had nixed the songs, deeming them controversial.

Tempel, a first-grade dual language teacher at Heyer Elementary in Waukesha, Wisconsin, appeared to be just as upset as Schindler and her daughter. On Tuesday she tweeted, "My first graders were so excited to sing Rainbowland for our spring concert but it has been vetoed by our administration. When will it end?"


According to Schindler, the school board had "a conservative flip" in recent years following community uproar over COVID-19 mitigation strategies. "With that have come some policy changes that have been causing some controversy in our community," she told the Los Angeles Times over a phone call on Friday.

"One of those is a controversial topics policy saying that teachers can't have any kind of signage that could be deemed political. ... Discussion of pronouns with students was another thing that came up. And teachers aren't allowed to wear rainbows."

Tempel wrote on Twitter "4 years ago we had an active diversity team and had @sharroky as our district equity consultant. Now we are Florida."

Leigh Radichel Tracy is another Waukesha resident with children enrolled in the district who spoke with The Times about the ongoing controversy in the community. "The School District of Waukesha has really cracked down on anything LBGTQ," she told The Times via Facebook Messenger. "So this song being an 'issue' has not in any way come as a surprise.


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