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School board fires teacher who criticized decision to ban a song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus

"Today I was fired for tweeting that first graders couldn’t sing Rainbowland," Wisconsin first grade teacher Melissa Tempel tweeted.
Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus
Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif.Emma McIntyre / Getty Images

Wisconsin teacher Melissa Tempel has been fired after she publicly criticized her school district's decision to ban her first graders from performing the song "Rainbowland," by Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton.

“I’m devastated that the board decided to terminate my contract and remove me from my classroom, but I am a teacher at my core and no school board can take that away from me,” the 44-year-old educator tells TODAY.com.

"Tonight I have an achey breaky heart but tomorrow I’m gonna get up and keep fighting for what is right," she added in a tweet. "Thanks for all the love!"

TODAY.com reached out to the Waukesha School District Board of Education for comment, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

The Waukesha School District Board of Education voted on July 12 to terminate Tempel, NBC affiliate WTMJ of Milwaukee reported.

Tempel spoke to TODAY.com in March, after she voiced her opposition to the Waukesha School District's decision to ban her elementary school students from performing the Miley Cyrus-Dolly Parton duet.

“It’s just a really good song about peace, love, appreciating diversity and getting along, and my students liked it so much,” Tempel told TODAY.com at the time.

"When I told them, they were just so sad,” she added. “They kept asking: ‘Why? Why?’ It was really hard — I had to say I didn’t know.”

A statement from the Waukesha School District’s public relations and communications office in March confirmed that the song was reviewed by a central office administrator.

“They determined that the song could be deemed controversial in accordance with the policy,” the statement said, adding that the decision was “fully supported by the Superintendent” but that “at no time was the Board of Education involved.”

After Tempel publicly disagreed with the decision, Superintendent James Sebert asked for an investigation into the educator, citing the "hundreds" of phone messages and emails he received as a result of her social media posts, as reported by NBC affiliate WTMJ of Milwaukee.

During the July 12 meeting, WTMJ reported, Sebert said the way Tempel publicly disagreed with the decision “was in direct violation of multiple board policies.”

After the vote, Tempel's attorney told WTMJ they were disappointed with the outcome but added that they "have everything we need in terms of a factual basis to file a First Amendment claim."

"I’m a citizen teacher with First Amendment Rights," Tempel tells TODAY.

"Now every student that I’ve been privileged to teach knows that when I taught them that in this country every person has a voice and the right to be heard, I meant it," she adds. "Last night I slept so well because I know I have done nothing wrong."

CORRECTION (July 13, 2023 at 6:52 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Melissa Tempel's last name as Temple in several places. The story has been updated with the correct spelling.