Waukesha elementary admin removes 'controversial' song from 1st grade concert set list after 2 parents inquire
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- What makes a song controversial? Is it the lyrics? The meaning behind them? Or is it the person performing?
That's the million-dollar question at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, after school leaders removed Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton's 2017 duet "Rainbowland" from a 1st grade spring concert set list.
The choice was made Wednesday by Heyer Principal Mark Schneider and Melissa Yow, the director of elementary learning, according to Superintendent Dr. Jim Sebert.
"I was very confused," Sarah Schindler, the mother of a girl in the class, told CBS 58's Ellie Nakamoto-White. "She came home and she said, 'nope, we're not allowed to sing those songs anymore.'"
Sebert said the school had received two inquiries about the song choice from parents.
A @MileyCyrus and @DollyParton duet from 2017 is now the center of scrutiny at a #Waukesha elementary school. Why admin are not allowing the song to be performed at the first grade spring concert and reaction from the mother of a student, coming up on @CBS58 at 5p pic.twitter.com/8MDK6TFvwK— Ellie Nakamoto-White (@ellienw_news) March 24, 2023
Despite pressing for clarification, administrators declined to specify why they deemed the song controversial, and instead directed CBS 58 to SDW Board Policy 2240, which notes that a controversial issue is a topic which may have "political, social, or personal impacts."
"There is a lyric that says, you know, 'different colors, every hue coming together,' and in Waukesha, there's been a lot of pressure to get rid of things like that talk of diversity and talk of inclusion," Schindler said. "Since the beginning of time, you know, kids have talked about differences in school and talked about acceptance and loving other people, and I'm not sure why that has become the political thing that so many people in my community are afraid of."
Sebert said that students will now sing Paul William's "Rainbow Connection," which was famously sung by Kermit in The Muppets Movie.
"I feel that they're being pressured from outside influences to make decisions that no rational person would make. Anybody rational would read the lyrics to "Rainbowland" and understand that it is about people coming together," Schindler said. It is about togetherness; it is about the beautiful things that bind us all together in this life."
The full statement Sebert sent is below:
Yes, it was determined that Rainbowland could be perceived as controversial according to SDW Board Policy 2240. The main question was is the song appropriate for the age level and maturity of the students. The teacher was asked to pick a different song for the first grade concert which ended up being Rainbow Connection by Jim Henson. That song is great for first graders and fits in their concert theme as well.