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Wisconsin Teacher Fired Over ‘Rainbowland’ Controversy

July 13, 2023

Melissa Tempel hasn't seen her students since March.

After months of controversy, first-grade teacher Melissa Tempel has been fired for having her class sing Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus’s 2017 duet “Rainbowland.”

In March of this year, Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, WI banned “Rainbowland” after its lyrics were deemed “controversial” for suggesting acceptance of all. The lyrics cited in the ban are as follows:

“’Cause I know if we try, we could really make a difference in this world” and “Living in a Rainbowland … Where we’re free to be exactly who we are / Let’s all dig down deep inside / Brush the judgment and fear aside.”

Following the ban, Tempel tweeted, “My first graders were so excited to sing Rainbowland for our spring concert but it has been vetoed by our administration. When will it end?” and provided the lyrics to the song.

Tempel was instructed to choose a different song. She chose “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog, but that was also judged to be too controversial. After the song was banned, Tempel was forced to take leave while the school board discussed her employment. In May, she was “recommended for termination.” This week, she was officially terminated via a school board vote.

Superintendent Jim Sebert stated that the reason for her termination was not just for the song, but also for her subsequent social media posts following the event. He claimed Tempel “deliberately brought negative attention to the school district because she disagreed with the decision, as opposed to following protocol and procedure.”

After the decision, Tempel’s lawyer, Summer Murshid, stated, “We’re disappointed with the board’s decision, but we have everything we need in terms of a factual basis to file a First Amendment claim.”

She continued, “This is not a case about culture wars or rainbows. It’s a case of our constitutional rights and Ms. Tempel has them like every other person in this country. We are moving forward with next steps and Ms. Tempel looks forward to vindicating her rights in federal court.”

Tempel thanked her supporters and stated she misses her students, who she hasn’t been able to speak to since being put on administrative leave in March.

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