Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton

The song Rainbowland by Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton was banned from a first grade concert.


Across the country, schools are making choices to restrict not only books, but also songs by Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, and the Muppets, The Addams Family musical and more. Or they are approaching any topic that a parent might complain about with caution, for instance by warning parents about art by Michelangelo. This restrictive, fear-induced climate continues to suggest that students’ educational horizons are being narrowed.

Here’s an incomplete list of 10 surprising things that have been controversial, or banned, in 2023.

1. The songs Rainbowland and The Rainbow Connection

In Waukesha, Wisconsin, Rainbowland, a song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus that celebrates acceptance, was banned from a spring concert set list. So was the Muppets classic, The Rainbow Connection. Melissa Tempel, a teacher at Heyer Elementary, told the Los Angeles Times that the Muppets song was reinstated after an uproar from parents, but Rainbowland remains off the list.

2. Michelangelo’s David

In Tallahassee, Florida, a principal was forced to resign for not warning parents that Michelangelo’s David would be presented in a lesson to 6th graders. In an interview with Slate, the chair of the school’s board, Barney Bishop III, said he didn’t consider the statue indecent, but explained the school’s philosophy about warning parents.

“Parents choose this school because they want a certain kind of education. We’re not gonna have courses from the College Board. We’re not gonna teach 1619 or CRT crap. I know they do all that up in Virginia. The rights of parents, that trumps the rights of kids. Teachers are the experts? Teachers have all the knowledge? Are you kidding me? I know lots of teachers that are very good, but to suggest they are the authorities, you’re on better drugs than me.”

3. The Disney movie Ruby Bridges

In Pinellas, Florida, a parent who would not allow her child to watch a movie about Ruby Bridges filed a formal challenge saying the movie’s scenes of white people threatening Ruby might make students learn that white people hate Black people. Pinellas school officials banned the movie from use at the school until a review committee can assess it. 

4. The Addams Family musical

In Northern Lebanon, Pennsylvania, The Addams Family musical was deemed not appropriate to perform. The play has been done by many nearby schools. One board member said, “There are a number of songs, scenes, lines and phrases I do not want to promote within our district.”

5. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

In Middlefield, Ohio, the school superintendent canceled a performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. After the show creators agreed to take out words like “goddamnit” “good Lord” and “virgin,” the board allowed the show to go on.

6. Indecent

At Douglas Anderson High School of the Arts in Duval County, Florida, school officials canceled a production of Paula Vogel’s play Indecent, a play inspired by a production that was shut down in 1923. In a conversation with PEN America, Vogel said, “They’re trying to make history repeat itself, but they’re trying to have a different ending.”  

7. Drag and donuts

A “Drag & Donuts” event organized by students at Boone High School in Orlando, Florida, was canceled after the Florida Department of Education questioned whether the event was age and developmentally appropriate, according to a voicemail message sent to parents by the principal. The event was not a drag show, but a planned conversation with a performer about drag, acceptance and love.

8. The Bible

In Davis County, Utah, someone wants the Bible banned for being pornographic after the district and others in the state have banned all kinds of literary works for their sexual content because of the same allegation. 


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9. Authors

There continue to be stories like the one in the suburbs of Birmingham Alabama canceling an author visit by Derrick Barnes just because a single parent complained about it. In Texas, the Katy school district canceled a visit from Emma Straub to read her picture book Very Good Hats because Straub used “foul language” on social media.

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10. An entire class on civil rights

A class at the Cocoa campus of Eastern Florida State College was canceled by the professor because a student was uncomfortable with the day’s lesson on civil rights. “The topic was civil rights, no specific bit of it, just in general. As far as I’m aware,” a 15-year-old student said.