Teacher who wanted class to sing inclusive Miley Cyrus song forced to take leave from school

Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus perform a duet.

An “outstanding” teacher, who faced backlash after choosing Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton’s inclusive duet “Rainbowland” for her class to sing at a spring concert, has been put on administrative leave after the song was banned due to parent backlash.

Melissa Tempel, a first-grade dual-language teacher at Heyer Elementary School, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, confirmed in a text to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she’d been placed on “administrative leave” by the school district. 

On 23 March, the school district’s superintendent, Jim Sebert, said the decision to ban the song had been taken because it “could be perceived as controversial”. 

He added that the school district also questioned “whether it was appropriate for the age and maturity level of the students” and because of the “social or personal impacts” on them.

Following the district’s decision to put Tempel on leave, Alliance for Education in Waukesha (AEW), a group mainly made up of parents, wrote a Facebook post in support of her on Tuesday, 11 April. 

‘An outstanding educator’

In the post, the parents said they were “disappointed” by the decision, before going on to accuse the school’s board of bulling, bias and harassment since last year.

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“AEW stands in support of Tempel, who is an outstanding educator,” the group stated, adding that they hoped she would “return to her students”. 

The group wants Jim Sebert to be investigated for what they see as discrimination of LGBTQ+ students and staff. 

The post accused him of repeated discriminatory actions, with, they claimed, the banning of the song merely being “a symptom of an ongoing pattern of bias, bullying of students, staff and parents”. 


AEW member Laura Pinsoneault told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The best outcome would be that Melissa is back in the class and from there, that leads to more conversation and the district coming to the table and starting to think about how to pull back on some of the implementations of the policies that are damaging to the students.”

The school district has temporarily turned off comments on its Facebook posts, claiming that it has received “many irrelevant comments unrelated to specific posts”. 


Before being put on administrative leave, Tempel told CBS News Minnesota she chose the song because its message seemed universal and sweet.

She expressed concern about what the ban – and policies in the district against expressing support for LGBTQ+ people – meant for students.

The song, from Cyrus’ 2017 album Younger Now, explores inclusivity and acceptance, and includes lyrics such as “Wouldn’t it be nice (so 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”.

CBS reported that Sebert previously prohibited rainbows and Pride flags from being displayed in classrooms, as well as suspending equity and diversity work in the school district.

PinkNews has contacted Heyer Elementary School, Alliance for Education in Waukesha, and Sebert for comment.