A Wisconsin school district is on the verge of firing a teacher for calling out the school after it banned her first graders from singing a song that mentioned rainbows.
In March, Melissa Tempel tweeted that the Heyer Elementary School administration in Waukesha vetoed Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton’s 2017 collaboration, “Rainbowland,” a song that imagines a world where everyone is accepted for who they are, for the school’s spring concert. The district deemed the song “controversial.”
A Department of Education investigation found that the Georgia school district violated students’ civil rights.
Parents said the school has become increasingly conservative and that the ban was because rainbows are associated with LGBTQ+ people.
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After her Tweet went viral, Tempel was placed on leave. And this week, Tempel told Advocate that the school Superintendent James Sebert had informed her that he had recommended to the School Board that she be terminated.
“The superintendent has recommended that I am terminated, and that’s because the school board and the superintendent seem to be one and the same in the past two years,” Tempel said. “Whatever the school board wants, the superintendent is doing. It’s not typical checks and balances.”
“Well, we know how with funding from the Republican party and different other organizations that are aligned with them. They then gaslight everybody into believing that what they’re pushing for is what the public wants.”
In March, Sarah Schindler, whose daughter is in Tempel’s class, told the Los Angeles Times that the decision to ban the song is the result of the “conservative flip” that the school board has undergone over the past few years.
Schindler said there had been policy changes causing controversy in the community, including “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 Waukesha parent, Leigh Radichel Tracy, said that the district “has really cracked down on anything LGBTQ” and that the song being deemed controversial “has not in any way come as a surprise.”
According to Advocate, these policy changes have been fueled by Sebert. In fact, The Alliance for Education in Waukesha filed a complaint against him this year, accusing him of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
Tempel can either wait for the Board to decide if they will follow through on Sebert’s recommendation, or she can ask for a hearing before the board. She said she is considering legal options alleging the school has violated her First Amendment rights.
A letter from Sebert explaining his decision to recommend her termination explained that she “to raise your concerns through the appropriate channels and instead took your concerns public in a manner intended to bring as much attention to the District’s decision as possible, which resulted in substantial disruption to the school environment.”
He also accused her of having “undermined the interests of” her employer “deliberately and repeatedly.”
Tempel is not optimistic that the board will vote in her favor, and she lamented that parents continue to tell her how badly the students miss her.
“I’m getting messages from parents saying, ‘My daughter cries every morning because she wants you to be at school.’ I got another message from a parent saying, ‘My daughter goes to your classroom every day to see if you’re there.’”
She added, “I do want to say if by some miracle the school board decides not to let me go, and I mean, I know that there’s no chance of that, but if that did happen, I would go back to my classroom. I know people are going to really criticize me for this, but I would probably go back to that school because I want to be there for people there. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the families and parents there. So many people have reached out to tell me that they support me.”
She also emphasized that not one person has told her they are happy she is gone.