Far From Rainbowland

Wisconsin School Board Fires Teacher Over a Song About Acceptance

In March, a Wisconsin school district banned elementary students from performing the Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton duet song, “Rainbowland.” The school board has now fired the teacher responsible, who said she only chose the song because it has a sweet and universal message.

“Rainbowland” never makes reference to any specific marginalized group. In fact, it contains lyrics like “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.”

In other words, the song is about general acceptance, which is apparently controversial at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, WI. After banning the song, Superintendent ​​Jim Sebert did not cite any specific parental complaints. Instead, according to CBS News, the song was banned over the hypothetical that it “could be perceived as controversial.”

The first grade teacher who chose the song, Melissa Tempel, explained that she viewed the song as having a broad message. “My students were just devastated,” she said. They really liked this song and we had already begun singing it.”

Additionally, Tempel explained that the Muppets song “Rainbow Connection” was initially banned until the ban was reversed. Like the Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus song, the ban seemed to have been inspired solely by the word ‘rainbow.’ “These confusing messages about rainbows are ultimately creating a culture that seems unsafe towards queer people,” Tempel said.

As a result of her comments to the media, the school board voted to fire Tempel this past Wednesday. According to NBC affiliate WTMJ of Milwaukee, administrators blamed Tempel for bringing negative attention to the school district (as opposed to, you know, their own actions).

Tempel plans to fight the firing in court. Her lawyer, Summer Murshid, told reporters, “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.

“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.”

As for Tempel, she is just eager to get back to teaching. “Thank you for everybody who sent me such sweet messages and support,” she said. “I really appreciate it and I also just wanted to say hi to my students because I haven’t been able to talk to them since March and I really miss you guys.”

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