Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton's "Rainbowland" is a song about setting aside "judgment and fear" and letting people be "free to be exactly who [they] are," speculating that if we did so, we could live in a "paradise." Despite the apparently idyllic message, school administrators in Waukesha, Wisconsin, found it too controversial to be performed by first-grade students at a school concert. Melissa Tempel, the Heyer Elementary School teacher who introduced the song to her students, tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the children were disappointed when they found out the school would not allow the song to be performed at the concert. The superintendent tells Fox 6 that the school board has a policy under which the song "could be perceived as controversial."
Pressed on the issue, all the superintendent said was that the district wasn't sure "whether it was appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students" and was concerned about "social or personal impacts" on them. The school board policy he cited defines a controversial issue as one that "may be the subject of intense public argument." While no one is getting more specific than that, one parent of a disappointed first-grader at the school has a theory she shared with Fox 6: Perhaps "the district sees rainbows as a political symbol," she says, adding that recent school board decisions regarding LGBTQ+ issues could have something to do with it. Earlier this year, a resolution was passed barring staff from referring to students by names or pronouns inconsistent with their biological sex unless parents gave written permission. Students are also required to use the bathrooms and locker rooms, and play on the sports teams, that are consistent with their biological sex. (Read more Miley Cyrus stories.)