Wisconsin teacher fired after school ban of Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus song

Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus perform a duet.

A teacher in Wisconsin has been fired after school officials banned her class from singing the Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton duet “Rainbowland”.

The ban came in March, when the class of first-graders at Heyer Elementary School, in the Milwaukee county of Waukesha, were due to sing the duet at their spring concert.

School district officials stepped in, with superintendent Jim Sebert quoted as saying: “It was determined that ‘Rainbowland’ could be perceived as controversial.”

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.”

At the time, the teacher, Melissa Tempel, told CBS News Minnesota she chose the song because its message seemed universal and sweet.

NBC News reported that she also tweeted “When will it end?”, in response to the ban.

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Her firing came on Wednesday (12 July), following a vote by the Waukesha School District Board of Education, local media outlet WTMJ reported.

At the board meeting, Sebert and the school’s principal, Mark Schneider, said they were contacted after Tempel’s social media post and media interviews following the ban.

Sebert claimed Tempel “deliberately brought negative attention to the school district because she disagreed with the decision, as opposed to following protocol and procedure”.

WTMJ quoted him as saying: “I believe that behaviour is intolerable.”

After the decision, Tempel’s lawyer, Summer Murshid, said: “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.”

Tempel thanked people for their support and said she missed her students, who she hasn’t been able to talk to since March, when she was placed on administrative leave.