Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus Respond to Wisconsin School Ban Of Their Song “Rainbowland”

By Madison E. Goldberg
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Miley and Dolly want young LGBTQ+ people to feel safe in "Rainbowland."

Singer-songwriter Dolly Parton and her goddaughter, fellow musician Miley Cyrus, released their duet “Rainbowland” in 2017 as a part of Cyrus’ album “Younger Now.” The songs’ lyrics encourage acceptance and understanding of people who are different from yourself, and was widely applauded upon its release. This week, it was banned from Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

In 2017, Cyrus and Parton spoke to NME about the true meaning of the song. “It’s 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,” said Parton. Cyrus noted that the lyrics refer to “different races and genders and religions.”

The ban came when the local school board deemed that the lyrics “could be controversial” to perform at the school’s spring concert. The Waukesha School District also previously issued a policy that prohibits teachers from using LGBTQ+ students’ preferred pronouns during school hours unless they have written permission from a parent.

The news comes after sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ legislation continues to pass across the nation. Tennessee’s recently passed ban on drag performers goes into effect on April 1. Additionally, multiple states, including Tennessee and Iowa, have placed restrictions on gender affirming healthcare for minors.

As usual, Cyrus and Parton killed them with kindness, donating to Pride and Less Prejudice in response. The announcement was made via Twitter from Miley Cyrus’ charitable foundation, Happy Hippie.

Both Parton and Cyrus have long advocated for the LGBTQ+ community, making waves and paving the way for a more progressive Nashville music scene. The new collaboration with Pride and Less Prejudice blends both of their individual philanthropic efforts, as Dolly Parton has long run the Imagination Library, which provides books to elementary schools in low income neighborhoods.

Cyrus and Parton are receiving praise for their response to the “Rainbowland” ban in Wisconsin, and the sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ legislation at large.

Melissa Tempel (@melissatempel), the Wisconsin teacher who taught her students the song, tweeted a statement about the importance of its message. Tempel felt that the board’s decision risks infringing upon civil rights in public education.

Tempel engaged with commenters on her tweet and explained that she felt the district had taken steps backwards in terms of inclusivity. She even compared the school board’s “Rainbowland” ruling to the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in Florida, which was initially created by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The track does not directly mention the LGBTQ+ community, but encourages inclusivity in a general sense. Tempel continued to defend her song choice, as she assessed that it was at the proper level of reading comprehension for first grade students.

School District of Waukesha Superintendent Jim Sebert cited a specific school board policy, saying “it was determined that ‘Rainbowland‘ could be perceived as controversial.” Sebert has not responded to the national media attention that has since followed the school board’s ruling, or the donations from the Happy Hippie in response to the matter. Parton and Cyrus continue working 9 to 5 to support the LGBTQ+ community.