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Wisconsin Teacher Who Called Out School For Banning Dolly Parton Song Placed On Leave–And People Are Pissed

Melissa Tempel has confirmed that she's been placed on administrative leave from the Waukesha School District after calling them out for not allowing first graders to perform Parton and Miley Cyrus' 'Rainbowland.'

Parents protesting in front of the Waukesha School District; Dolly Parton
TMJ4 News/YouTube, Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

A Wisconsin elementary school teacher who spoke up about her school district's administration that banned students from performing the song "Rainbowland" has been placed on administrative leave.

"Rainbowland" is a duet between Miley Cyrus and her godmother, Dolly Parton, that appeared on Cyrus' 2017 Younger Now album.

The song about rainbows–with a message to encourage others to live in harmony with one another–was one that first-grade students at Heyer Elementary were looking forward to singing at their spring concert.

But unfortunately, it was dropped.

Waukesha School District Superintendent James Sebert said "Rainbowland" was vetoed from the spring concert's setlist, citing a school board policy that determined the song "could be perceived as controversial."

Sebert told Fox6 that the district questioned whether the song was "appropriate for the age and maturity level of students," and because of "social or personal impacts" on them.

Melissa Tempel, a first-grade dual language teacher at Heyer Elementary, had initially proposed the song for her students to sing.

Now she is taking the fall for suggesting the song and for calling out the school for its decision.

She confirmed that she was placed on administrative leave in a text last week in the midst of the controversy.

After Tempel first played the catchy earworm to her students, she said they wanted to hear it "over and over" again.

She said:

"It's such a fun song and they just immediately took to it."

When the students found out they were no longer performing "Rainbowland" at their concert, they were extremely disappointed and "sad."

When asked why the song was cut, Tempel told USA Today Network's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"I really don't know. There's so many different things it could be."
"We do have a controversial content policy within our district. And it's a little bit vague."
"So it's hard to know exactly what the district would say is controversial or not.

Tempel deferred further comment to the Alliance for Education in Waukesha.

The Alliance is mainly made up of Waukesha parents who called for the investigation of Superintendent Sebert for alleged LGBTQ+ discrimination of students and staff.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Alliance claimed that Sebert and the board were starting:

"A march toward marginalization last year, and it has only served to stoke fear and sow distrust in the Waukesha Community, which has yielded a pattern of bullying against anyone who calls out the district's bias and harassment."

They added:

"Now Waukesha is a national laughingstock and the blame for that falls squarely to the feet of the district's leadership, not those who have the courage to hold them accountable, like Ms. Tempel."

One parent, Sarah Schindler, believed the controversy had less to do with the song's lyrics and more to do with the rainbow keyword in the title.

Schindler said:

"I think, for some reason, the district sees rainbows as a political symbol."

She added that the school board addressing LGBTQ+ issues recently may have been a factor in their decision to pull the song due to the rainbow's association with gay rights.

You can watch a news report here.

Miley Cyrus' 'Rainbowland' stirs Waukesha school concert controversy | FOX6 News

In a 2017 interview with Taste of Country, Parton said "Rainbowland" was:

"really about if we could love one another a little better or be a little kinder, be a little sweeter, we could live in rainbow land."
"It's really just about dreaming and hoping that we could all do better."

She added at the time:

"It's a good song for the times right now."

Cyrus previously commented that the song was inspired by the multi-color scheme of her recording studio.

Here is a lyric video of "Rainbowland."

03 Rainbowland Miley Cyrus ft Dolly Parton with

Tempel highlighted some of her favorite lyrics from the song, which included:

"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."

She said the song was reflective of the values and core of what she and her fellow faculty members teach at the school.

"You can be who you are, you should be proud of what you look like and how you learn," said Tempel, adding:

"And that everyone has differences that we can all appreciate."
"And that no one's the same, so you shouldn't be afraid to be yourself around other people."

Tempel also said she "heard through the grapevine" that Miley Cyrus could be the point of contention sparking the controversy.

"Musical artists often do things that are very controversial," Tempel said.

"So that would be a really strange way to approach the controversial topic. How would you sing pretty much any song?"
"Everybody's got something in their past that might be controversial."

Interestingly, the Muppet song "Rainbow Connection" is still a part of the spring concert.

The Waukesha School District also uses rainbows in their 4K enrollment signs.