Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton song ‘Rainbowland’ banned by school for being ‘controversial’

Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus perform a duet.

Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton duet “Rainbowland” has been banned by an elementary school in Wisconsin, United States, because it “could be perceived as controversial”.

A class of first-graders from Heyer Elementary School, in the Milwaukee county of Waukesha, had been set to sing “Rainbowland” for their spring concert until school officials stepped in to ban it.

The song, from Cyrus’ 2017 album Younger Now, explores inclusivity and acceptance, and includes lyrics such as “wouldn’t it be nice (so nice) / to live in paradise? / where we’re free to be exactly who we are / let’s all dig down deep inside / brush the judgement and fear aside / make wrong things right”.

Superintendent Jim Sebert confirmed to Fox 6 News Milwaukee on 23 March that the performance had been cut.

“It was determined that ‘Rainbowland’ could be perceived as controversial,” he said, with the school district questioning “whether it was appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students” and because of the “social or personal impacts” on them.

The outlet said the school board defined a “controversial issue” as one that “may be the subject of intense public argument”.

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Melissa Tempel, the first-graders’ teacher, told CBS News Minnesota she chose the song because its message seemed universal and sweet.

She said she was concerned about what the ban – and policies in the district against expressing support for LGBTQ+ people – mean for students.

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

Tempel said officials had also originally banned a performance of The Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection”, but the decision was reversed.

Sarah Schindler, whose daughter Audrey is one of the first-graders affected, told Fox 6 she was struggling to explain the decision to her daughter.

“Seven-year-olds should be free to be themselves,” she said.

She thought officials saw rainbows as a political symbol “for some reason” and believed it was connected to other decisions the school board had made in relation to LGBTQ+ issues.

CBS reported that Jim Sebert previously prohibited rainbows and pride flags being displayed in classrooms of schools in Waukesha, as well as suspending equity and diversity work in the school district in 2021.

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