LGBTQ activists organize Rainbowland choir after Wisconsin's Waukesha school district banned song from choral performance

“The Waukesha School district made national news in the last week for banning the song ‘Rainbowland,’ by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus from a school event. So we’re going to sing it to them anyway,” reads the event flyer.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

Outside of the Waukesha School District board meeting on April 12, LGBTQ+ activists organized a choir performance of the song Rainbowland to protest the board’s decision to ban the song from a spring concert at Heyer Elementary School.

The Waukesha School District hit the headlines in March after it was announced that students would not be permitted to sing the song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus due to concerns that it was not age appropriate and could be considered controversial.

In retaliation, a local group of LGBTQ activists organized a Rainbowland Choir to sing before the board meeting, which took place on April 12 at 5:30 pm.

“The Waukesha School district made national news in the last week for banning the song ‘Rainbowland,’ by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus from a school event. So we’re going to sing it to them anyway,” reads the event flyer.

The United Unitarian Universalist Congregation organized a committee that has contacted faith organizations, LGBTQ organizations, and alliances to form the choir.

“I think, for some reason, the district sees rainbows as a political symbol,” local parent Sarah Schindler told Fox6 News.

Melissa Tempel, a Grade 1 language teacher at Heyer, said she had played the song for her students after learning that it might be part of the concert.

It's such a fun song and they just immediately took to it," Tempel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The students wanted to listen to it "over and over" again.

Then came the news that the song had been dropped from the performance.

“We just really feel bad because the kids were excited about it," said Tempel. "It's just really confusing. ... It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.”

Superintendent Jim Sebert told Fox6 News that Rainbowland was removed from the concert due to a specific school board policy.

“It was determined that ‘Rainbowland’ could be perceived as controversial,” he said.

Tempel has since been placed on administrative leave for publicly complaining about the song’s cancellation.

In a statement released on April 11, the Alliance for Education called Tempel an “outstanding teacher,” who according to one parent “goes above and beyond to meet the needs of her students and engage them in learning."

Photographs from Tempel’s social media accounts, shared on Twitter by political scientist Scarlett Johnson, show the first-grade teacher festooned in Pride rainbows.

According to Johnson, “the controversy isn't really about a song.”

“It's about the dismissive treatment parents and community members endured at the hands of a ‘radical, politically overt’ first grade teacher and the activist administrators who appear to look for any opportunity to undermine the new conservative school board,” Johnson tweeted, along with a collection of radical left tweets that Tempel had liked.

“I was sent a PLETHORA of posts and documention, this is just a taste of the social media likes and posts which alarmed Waukesha parents and community members WHO ARE OVERWHELMINGLY REPUBLICAN. Waukesha is one of the most Conservative Counties in the entire state,” Johnson added.

A controversial 2021 policy prohibited signs promoting diversity and inclusivity in Waukesha District schools, with the Alliance for Education joining the protests opposing the policy, reported Fox6 News at the time.


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