After a Waukesha teacher found out that “Rainbowland” was planned to be one of the songs her first-grade students would be singing at their spring concert, she played it for them. And then they wanted to hear it “over and over” again.
“It’s such a fun song and they just immediately took to it,” said Melissa Tempel, a first grade dual language teacher at Heyer Elementary School.
Tempel later found out that the Heyer Elementary administration was not going to permit the song to be performed after all. Tempel and her students were “so sad,” she said.
“We just really feel bad because the kids were excited about it,” Tempel said, who has been teaching for 20 years and is national board certified. “It’s just really confusing. … It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
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School District of Waukesha Superintendent Jim Sebert confirmed to Fox 6 — who first reported the incident — that “Rainbowland” was dropped from the set list, and cited a specific school board policy, saying: “It was determined that ‘Rainbowland’ could be perceived as controversial.”
The district questioned “whether it was appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students” and because of “social or personal impacts” on them, Sebert told the television station.
Sebert could not be reached to comment further Sunday.
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Heyer Elementary School teacher says it’s not clear what the district’s issue is with ‘Rainbowland’
When asked why she thought the song was pulled, Tempel told the Journal Sentinel: “I really don’t know. There’s so many different things it could be. We do have a controversial content policy within our district. And it’s a little bit vague. So it’s hard to know exactly what the district would say is controversial or not.”
“Through the grapevine,” Tempel said, she heard that the song being vetoed had to do with Cyrus being the singer of it.
“Musical artists often do things that are very controversial,” Tempel said. “So that would be a really strange way to approach the controversial topic. How would you sing pretty much any song? Everybody’s got something in their past that might be controversial.”
In 2017, 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.”
“It’s really just about dreaming and hoping that we could all do better,” she told the outlet. “It’s a good song for the times right now.”
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Teacher says themes in ‘Rainbowland’ are about embracing differences in each other
Some of the lyrics Tempel especially appreciated were: “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise, where we’re free to be exactly who we are. Let’s all dig down deep inside, brush the judgment and fear aside. Make wrong things right and end the fight.”
“That’s like the core of what we teach at school or what anybody teaches,” Tempel said. “You can be who you are, you should be proud of what you look like and how you learn. And that everyone has differences that we can all appreciate. And that no one’s the same, so you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself around other people.”
For the May concert, “Rainbowland” was replaced with “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie,” Tempel said. But then that song got axed too, she said. It has since been re-added. Other songs that will be performed at the show include “It’s a Small World,” “De Colores,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “What a Wonderful World.”
Drake Bentley and Alec Johnson contributed to this report.