MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — Officials at a Wisconsin elementary school suspended a first grade class from performing duo Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton to promote LGBTQ acceptance because the song “may be considered controversial.”
Students at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha prepared a version of “Rainbowland” for their spring concert, but school officials deleted the song from the set list last week. Parents in the area say the decision was made because the song promotes LGBTQ acceptance and references rainbows.
Superintendent James Seibert, who did not immediately return the call on Monday, confirmed to Fox 6 that officials had removed “Rainbowland” from the first grade recital because it may not be “appropriate for the students’ age and maturity level” . He also cited the school board’s policy against raising controversial issues in classrooms.
Sebert previously banned rainbows and pride flags from appearing in Waukesha classrooms and suspended the district’s equality and diversity work in 2021.
“Let’s all dig deep, put judgment and fear aside,” says the song on Cyrus’ 2017 album Younger Now. “Living in the Land of the Rainbow, where you and I get along. Oh, I’d be lying if I said it’s okay, all the pain and hate that’s in here.”
First grade teacher Melissa Temple said she chose the song because its message seemed universal and sweet. The theme of the concert was “The World” and included other songs such as “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
“My students were just devastated. They really loved this song and we really started singing it,” Temple said on Monday.
Officials also initially banned the song “Rainbow Connection” from the Muppets, but later reversed that decision, according to Temple.
Temple said parents were outraged that the song had been removed. But she was more concerned about the significance of the ban and other district policies against the expression of LGBTQ support for students.
“These confusing messages about rainbows ultimately create a culture that seems insecure around LGBT people,” she said.
Spokesmen for Parton and Cyrus did not immediately respond to Monday emails asking for artists’ thoughts on the ban.
Wisconsin school board races, even in Waukesha, have become increasingly partisan in recent years. Republicans have seen big gains in all state school board races in 2022 and positions have been used to challenge policies from Transgender Children Rules to COVID-19 restrictions.