Teacher fired for speaking out against school banning the song “Rainbowland”
Author: Alex Bollinger
Nine members of a school board in a deep red part of Wisconsin have voted unanimously to fire a teacher who spoke out against her district’s decision to ban the song “Rainbowland,” written by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus, from a children’s concert.
The board said that they fired Melissa Tempel because she spoke out publicly without first talking to her supervisors. However, Tempel insists that she was fired because she chose a song with the word “rainbow” in its title and a message of acceptance in its lyrics.
Tempel’s first-grade class at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin planned to perform the Parton/Cyrus duet, but the school banned them from singing the song.
“My first graders were so excited to sing Rainbowland for our spring concert but it has been vetoed by our administration,” Tempel tweeted. “When will it end?”
Several parents spoke out as well, including Sarah Schindler, the mother of a student in Tempel’s class. She said that the school board had recently experienced a “conservative flip” and that they banned anything they deemed controversial, “saying that teachers can’t have any kind of signage that could be deemed political… Discussion of pronouns with students was another thing that came up. And teachers aren’t allowed to wear rainbows.”
Another parent, Leigh Radichel Tracy, said the district “has really cracked down on anything LGBTQ.”
After the story got national attention, Heyer Elementary School Principal Mark Schneider said that he and a school administrator had reviewed the song and found that it “could be deemed controversial” because of the policy. They didn’t explain why.
Tempel was put on leave after she tweeted about the ban, and in May, she received notice that district Superintendent James Sebert would recommend that the board fire her.
This past Wednesday, the district held a four-hour hearing about Tempel, where Sebert said Tempel “deliberately brought negative attention to the school district because she disagreed with the decision as opposed to following protocol and procedure.”
“I believe that behavior is intolerable,” he said.
“I thought that the fact that the tweet that I made – that Rainbowland wasn’t going to be allowed – was something that the public would be really concerned about and that they would be interested in knowing about it,” Tempel said at the hearing.
She now says she plans to sue. She was a government employee, so firing her for her speech outside the classroom could have violated the First Amendment, former U.S. attorney James Santelle told The Guardian.
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Author: Alex Bollinger