Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton’s ‘Rainbowland’ Banned at First Graders’ Spring Concert
According to local publication the Freeman, the trouble started when Heyer Elementary school dual language teacher Melissa Tempel was collaborating with the school's music teacher to brainstorm a list of positive, uplifting songs their first grade students could perform during the school's annual spring concert. The list they compiled included Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," The Muppet Movie's "Rainbow Connection" and a Spanish folk song called "De Colores," which has been recorded by Joan Baez.
With a theme emerging about the unifying power of the different colors of the world, the two teachers decided to suggest "Rainbowland" to the students, too.
"['De Colores'] was a slow song so we thought we should pick 'Rainbowland' because it is faster. So the kids don't get bored with slower songs," Tempel explains to the Freeman, adding that after she played the song list for the class, "Rainbowland" was a favorite with the kids "because it is a fun song."
Apparently, however, the principal of Heyer Elementary and the Waukesha Board of Education disagreed. A day after playing the song for the class, Tempel received an email from the music teacher, which stated that the school principal had vetoed the idea of including "Rainbowland" on the program. She took to Twitter, sharing the lyrics to "Rainbowland" and writing, "When will it end?"
In an email to the Freeman, Superintendent Jim Sebert wrote that "Rainbowland" was vetoed due to questions about whether it was an appropriate song for young children to sing.
“It was determined that ‘Rainbowland’ could be perceived as controversial according to SDW Board Policy 2240," he notes. "The teacher was asked to pick a different song for the first grade concert which ended up being ‘Rainbow Connection’ by Jim Henson. That song is great for first graders and fits in their concert theme as well."
The policy cited in Sebert's email addresses "controversial issues" in the classroom, and rules that such issues are admissible in classroom settings so long as they fall within in a series of parameters.
In order to be allowed, the issue at hand must be "related to the instructional goals of the course of study," age and maturity-level appropriate and foster open-mindedness in the students. Additionally, it must not cause "substantial disruption" or a "hostile school environment," and it must not "tend to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view."
In the case of this particular song, "The main question was is the song appropriate for the age level and maturity of the students," Sebert continues. No further clarification was offered about what aspect of the song was deemed inappropriate.
Tempel says she speculates that the problem arose from one particular set of lyrics, which read: "Living in a Rainbowland / The skies are blue and things are grand / Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise / Where we’re free to be exactly who we are." She also adds that she's heard from some parents wondering if the veto was a result of Parton's longstanding support of drag performers. However, Parton and Cyrus haven't stated any official connection between their song and support for the LGBTQ+ community.
"We haven't gotten an answer about it," Tempel goes on to say, pointing out that she believes it's important for her students to know why this particular song was vetoed.
“They need to feel welcome at the school and we need be transparent about what is going on. They are very confused as to why they can’t sing ‘Rainbowland.’ They are very hurt by it. They were so upset. I don’t know what to say. That is the honest truth,” the teacher concludes.