Fired Rainbowland teacher files First Amendment lawsuit against Waukesha School District

Melissa Tempel, a since-fired Waukesha teacher who criticized the school district's decision to ban the "Rainbowland" song from a school concert, has filed a lawsuit against the district.
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Posted at 9:21 AM, Sep 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-06 10:21:44-04

WAUKESHA, Wis. — Melissa Tempel, a teacher who was fired after criticizing the Waukesha School District's decision to ban the "Rainbowland" song from a school concert, has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the district and its superintendent.

The School District of Waukesha Board of Education terminated Tempel in July. Earlier this year, she spoke out on social media about the decision to ban the Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton duet from the Heyer Elementary School student concert. Tempel's post drew national attention and debate.

The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the Waukesha School District and Superintendent James Sebert. Tempel is represented by her attorney Summer Murshid.

The lawsuit claims the district and Sebert violated Tempel's First Amendment free speech rights by "retaliating against her for engaging in protected speech."

The Waukesha School District explained that the song was reviewed using a board policy about controversial issues in the classroom and the decision to take it off the setlist was made based on appropriateness in the school environment. The district said the song "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit the Frog will be performed instead.

Regarding Tempel's firing, the administration's attorney argued that Tempel violated multiple policies when she expressed her disagreement by not following protocol.

Following her termination, Tempel's attorney Summer Mushid said her client looked "forward to vindicating her rights in federal court."

WATCH: Melissa Tempel speaks publicly after the decision to terminate her

Teacher terminated over Rainbowland song

Superintendent James Sebert and Heyer Elementary School's principal, Mark Schneider previously said the emails and phone calls following the controversy prompted safety concerns and a decision to have a temporary police presence at the school and district office.

"Ms. Tempel deliberately brought negative attention to the school district because she disagreed with the decision as opposed to following protocol and procedure. I believe that behavior is intolerable," Superintendent Sebert previously testified.