A Wisconsin school district axed the performance of Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton’s song “Rainbowland” by first-grade students after the song was deemed “controversial.”

When first-grade dual language Spanish teacher Melissa Tempel first played the tune for her students, they insisted on hearing it “over and over again.”

“It’s such a fun song and they just immediately took to it,” Tempel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton perform at Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas in 2022.

Getty Images

Tempel, who has been teaching for 20 years, suggested the song for Heyer Elementary School’s upcoming spring concert, and consulted with the school’s music teacher, according to a press release from the school district.

When the music teacher asked Principal Mark Schneider if it would be acceptable for first-grade students to perform it, the administration asked them to search for a different song. The Principal checked with a central office administrator so they could review the song together and see if it fit within school policy, the news release said. 

Neither the school nor the school district provided a specific reason why the song was “controversial,” local media reported. But in the news release, the district noted the Board of Education had nothing to do with the matter.

The school district’s policy says a “controversial issue” is a topic “which may have political, social or personal impacts on students and/or the community.” 

When Tempel delivered the news to her students, they were “so sad,” she told local media. “We just really feel bad because the kids were excited about it. It’s just really confusing. … It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Tempel said on her Twitter saying an artist is “controversial” is a “slippery slope.”

The district’s decision can be seen as part of a nationwide discussion seemingly split by political lines and approaches to education on how subjects deemed “controversial” are taught. Last week, a Florida principal was forced to resign after a teacher showed images of Michaelangelo’s statue of David to a sixth-grade class without proper protocols. In Wisconsin’s Manitowoc Public School District teachers can no longer share personal opinions about controversial topics in the classroom. In Oklahoma, lawmakers are working to pass a bill where teachers are not allowed to discuss current controversial topics in the classroom.

Even though the rainbow is a commonly known symbol for the LGBTQ+ community the song’s meaning has never been confirmed.  After the song was released in 2017, Dolly Parton told “Taste of Country” that the song is “really about if we could love one another a little better or be a little kinder, be a little sweeter, we could live in rainbow land.”

Both musicians have advocated for the LGBTQ+ for decades; Parton said in a 2014 interview with Billboard Magazine, when asked about her gay fans, “They know that I completely love and accept them, as I do all people… I think everybody should be allowed to be who they are and to love who they love.” 

Miley Cyrus notably came out as pansexual, which means she is attracted to all people regardless of sex or gender, in 2016.   Cyrus also founded “The Happy Hippie Foundation,” which “rallies young people to fight injustice facing LGBTQ youth.”

Despite “Rainbowland” being axed from Heyer Elementary School’s upcoming spring concert, the district approved “Rainbow Connection,” from “The Muppet Movie,” the news release said.