Miley Cyrus responds to Wisconsin elementary school ban on her Dolly Parton collab ‘Rainbowland’ with donation

After first-graders were banned from singing the song, Cyrus' Happy Hippie Foundation made a donation to an LGBTQ+ organisation that provides free LGBTQ-inclusive books for classrooms

Miley Cyrus has responded to a Wisconsin school banning students from singing her Dolly Parton collaboration ‘Rainbowland’ by donating to an LGBTQ+ organisation.

Teachers from Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin were ordered earlier this week to remove the song from a planned concert in which it would be performed by first-graders.

According to a statement by the Waukesha School District, a music teacher at the school asked the principal to approve the song’s usage prior to the ban. After he and a central office administrator reviewed the song, they found it “could be deemed controversial”, based on one of the district board policies.


The lyrics of ‘Rainbowland’ – from Cyrus’ 2017 album ‘Younger Now’ – do not explicitly mention LGBTQ+ issues, but do espouse a general message of acceptance for others. “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise? / Where we’re free to be exactly who we are,” Cyrus and Parton sing. “Let’s all dig down deep inside / Brush the judgment and fear aside.

Cyrus described the song as “very political” when speaking to NME back in 2017. “It’s about all these different races and genders and religions, if we all did come together to create and said, ‘Hey, we’re different, that’s awesome, let’s not change to be the same, let’s stay different but let’s come together anyway.’ Because a rainbow’s not a rainbow without all the different colours.”

In a statement shared to WPR, Waukesha Superintendent James Sebert said “the question was around whether the song was appropriate for the age and maturity level of the first-grade students”. According to WPR, the ban prompted backlash from both teachers and parents in the school community, with one parent calling the ban “politically motivated”.

Melissa Tempel, a first-grade teacher at the school, also spoke out about the decision. “I fear for students,” Tempel said. “I feel for their mental and physical well-being, and I feel for their mental health. It’s really pretty terrifying to know that we’re going backwards.”

She continued: “If you don’t let me have a rainbow in my classroom, and my student has two moms, or if I had a rainbow sign in my class, and then it was removed, what is that telling that student? And how is that student expected to be able to learn under those conditions?”

In response to the ban, Cyrus’ Happy Hippie Foundation announced Thursday (March 30) that it would be making a donation to Pride and Less Prejudice, an organisation which provides free, “LGBTQ-inclusive books to Pre-K through 3rd grade classrooms to help students and teachers”.


“To the inspiring first grade students at Heyer Elementary, keep being YOU. We believe in our Happy Hippie heart that you’ll be the ones to brush the judgment and fear aside and make all of us more understanding and accepting,” reads a statement the foundation shared on Twitter. “In honor & celebration of your BRIGHT future Happy Hippie is making a donation to [Pride and Less Prejudice] to help make classrooms more inclusive!”

In a statement on their website, Pride and Less Prejudice expressed gratitude to Cyrus and her foundation. “Thank you to Miley Cyrus and Happy Hippie Foundation for generously donating to our organization! We are grateful for your support and your donation will help us send us LGBTQ-inclusive books to elementary school classrooms across the US and Canada!”

The ban comes as new legislation in the United States continues to target LGBTQ+ Americans, particularly young people. Earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law a ban on all forms of gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18. It came amid a raft of other restrictive laws in the state, including an effective ban on drag performances in public spaces.

In response to the bills, a benefit concert took place last week at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The likes of Paramore‘s Hayley Williams, Jason Isbell, Julien Baker, Brittany Howard, Sheryl CrowMaren Morris, Allison Russell and Amanda Shires performed, with funds raised for a variety of different LGBTQ+ organisations.

“As a queer, intersectional artist and mother, raising my child in Nashville, it’s important to me to support these wonderful Tennessee LGBTQIA+ advocacy organisations, working so hard to build bridges, reduce harm and promote equality for all Tennesseans,” Allison Russell said in a statement when announcing the shows.

Hayley Williams also criticised the bills, describing them as “regressive and unfathomably harmful” on Instagram. “We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ family and local LGBTQIA+ orgs in this fight, not only for inclusion for our friends and family in the queer community, but for radical acceptance and empowerment for each of them,” she wrote. “Drag is not a crime. Gender-affirming healthcare for all, including our youth, is a necessity.”

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