Recall Terri Cunningham-Swanson: Part 3

Now that we know a little bit about Terri Cunningham-Swanson, her past, her mindset and her agenda, let’s delve into how she immediately went to work on her goal of transforming Plattsmouth Community Schools. This, once again ironically enough, is akin to a quote she reads from the Handbook of Social Emotional Learning during her chat with Scott Voorhees on September 8, 2023.

Here is the definition of SEL, since Terri hates it so much:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Since Terri has decided she is against children and adults learning how to manage their own emotions, she asked to be placed on the American Civics Committee to ensure that she could work toward her own goal of transforming society, except in her twisted image. Remember, neither her children nor her grandchildren attended Plattsmouth Community Schools, and she hasn’t been involved in literally anything in the town, but she’s ready to put on her granny panties and start banning books.

Oh yes, that was her agenda from the start. Like we said previously, that wasn’t part of the platform specified on her campaign website, but the truth came out once some enterprising parents got their hands on Terri’s Plattsmouth Community School District emails.

Let’s explore those emails and get a timeline of how all of this went down.

No One Expects the Literary Inquisition

Every school board has policies and, once Terri got what she wanted – a place on the American Civics Committee, as she told Scott Voorhees during her September 8 interview – she then set about digging into everything she found objectionable about the materials available to students at Plattsmouth Community Schools. Notice she didn’t go after what the kids were being taught, although she didn’t want the school to spend money on curricula that might remotely resemble SEL, CRT or CSE. No, she went after library books, which are not being placed directly into teenagers’ hands or taught in class. Books she believed were full of big naughty things.

Believed, because of course Terri had not read the books. Instead, she relied on Moms for Liberty member-created biased “book review” websites to find sentences from various books she thought would shock the rest of the board members into following her lead.

Let’s stop here and mention that, as far as we know, she’s not actually a member of Moms for Liberty… yet. However, her book banning bestie, Tiffany Carter, gave her all the guidance she needed to get started. And, yes, Terri admits this in her interview with the creators of the disinformation film, The Mind Polluters. Or, in Terri’s own words from that interview, “I did request to be put on the American Civics Committee to directly start addressing books and finding out what was there… I started this book hunt and I’ve got to thank Tiffany Carter for teaching me how to do that.”

Terri also went a step further in pushing the superintendent and principals to violate Policy 6300, making all of them complicit whether they realized it or not. Violated it how, you might ask?

Policy 6300’s “Procedures for Reconsideration of Materials” was ultimately revised to increase from 6 paragraphs to 8 on July 10, 2023. However, prior to that revision, we have the May 4, 2023 redlined version, which specifies in paragraph 5, “Any materials identified in a complaint may remain in use pending its review and its disposition by the board of education.”

This did not happen. The books were completely removed from the library and made inaccessible to all students indefinitely. Terri clearly believes she doesn’t need to follow the rules, and this is just one of her violations of school board policy.

So why were the books removed from the shelves and when did this begin?

Terri missed new member orientation on February 3, 2023, and then the school had to deal with food supplier issues, as Terri lamented in her KFAB interview on September 8, 2023. However, as she told Voorhees, she “enacted her jihad against the questionable materials” that she found in Plattsmouth schools within the first month. School board minutes for the January, February and March meetings show that they dealt primarily with concerns regarding personnel, operations, and general school activities.

It was at the April 9, 2023 American Civics Committee meeting, just prior to that evening’s board meeting, that she started reading out loud from Looking for Alaska to the committee for shock value. She felt nobody was taking her concerns about books with naughty words seriously, so she whipped out a few “fucks” to get their attention.

A note about Looking for Alaska and the “book report” about it on BookLooks, a website designed to push the Moms for Liberty agenda: the concerns about this book are noted as “sexual nudity and sexual activities; moderate profanity use; alcohol use; and gender ideologies.”

Folks, we can’t even with these people… How dare the word “boob” be in a book. How dare a book say “Lying naked in bed together.” Such nudity! Have you ever?

Apparently, Terri also had allies prepared to speak on her behalf at this time. Karla Burkes Higgins—who always looks like she’s going to cry while she’s clutching her pearls—and Jerrod Cunningham addressed the board regarding book banning.

Why was Terri’s son—who never attended Plattsmouth schools—made aware of this situation, while parents with students at the school district were kept completely in the dark?

And why does Terri get to muster people to speak on her side before anyone else even knows she’s banning books—something she claims she’s not doing, except also admits she is? This is just one of her many disingenuous behaviors that we’ve seen over the entirety of this year.

On April 11, 2023, Terri emailed herself a handwritten list of books “found so far” in the school libraries – two in the middle school and fourteen in the high school; a list apparently intended for Dr. Cherie Larson, Director of Instructional Services.

On April 12, 2023, a concerned parent of two high school students emailed Terri directly to ask her why members of the school board were planning to ban books at the library. This parent also heard Terri’s name repeated in regard to the matter, and explained how appalled and disappointed she was with this decision.

4-12-2023 Concerned Parent Email - Nebraska Meadowlark
Perfectly reasonable questions and concerns from a parent.

Terri’s misleading response stated “It was brought to our attention that there were books found in both the high school and middle school libraries which contained content that may not be appropriate for a school environment.”

4-12-2023 Concerned Parent Email Response - Nebraska Meadowlark
Terri’s misleading response and first attempt to twist the narrative with parents.


Oh, Terri, is that how it happened? Don’t you mean you brought it to the board’s attention that there were books that made your loins tingle, and you didn’t like it?

The parent sent a follow-up email that same evening to ask for the titles of the books being removed. Terri responded to the concerned parent, claiming there were procedures they needed to follow in response to the parent’s request for the list of books, and directed her to contact the high school principal. The parent’s incredulous response was, “So are you saying you cannot give me the TITLES of the books you mentioned above?”

4-13-2023 Concerned Parent Follow Up - Nebraska Meadowlark
Terri is all about procedures that “must” be followed when it comes to banning books.


Terri emailed her list to the superintendent, high school principal, board president, and director of instructional services again on April 13, 2023, claiming there was “a number of library books that I and other board members feel really need to be reviewed.”

This email directly contradicts her statement during her interview with Scott Voorhees that she immediately went looking for “questionable material” in the first month after she was sworn in to the board. She’s acting as though someone came along and said, “Oh, by the way, this book concerns me,” when it was all her doing, all her plan, and also all done in the shadiest, most hush-hush way possible.

That’s right. No one thought to reach out to parents and tell them this was going on. Terri was sending out lists of books to the superintendent and he, in turn, sent the principals to literally round up the so-called “objectionable material.” On April 19, 2023, she emailed the high school principal to say she had found even more books she wanted removed, and that she wasn’t done looking.

In one fell swoop, Terri Cunningham-Swanson eroded all trust in the public school system on all sides. Those who side with her conspiracy theory-driven ideologies now believe teachers and librarians are groomers and pedophiles, and those who side against her want to know why the books were removed behind their backs. Her claiming this was action taken by the board as a whole, and not unilaterally by her, is an absolute lie.

Terri came to the school board with an agenda—one not specified on her campaign site—and tore through those libraries like a far right tornado. This is also when Terri started her “it’s not a book ban” nonsense with the guise of claiming she only wanted to “choose the highest quality books” for the schools’ library shelves.

Moving back briefly to the day of April 12, the high school media center specialist (librarian) resigned. Terri downplayed this in her interviews on podcasts, rather than considering that her book banning bullshit might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. As we have seen, Terri deflecting blame and twisting the narrative is one of her talents.

Sure, Terri could be honest with everyone—parents, teachers, and her fellow board members—but she was choosing not to at the time. Why?

Maybe she was starting to realize that people didn’t approve of her actions, after all. Maybe she didn’t expect push-back from the community. It seems Terri couldn’t have been more surprised at the fact that students and parents didn’t like what she was doing. We can only imagine her shock at learning that people don’t like it when others try to ban books. It’s as if people remember some guy by the name of Adolf Hitler doing the same thing.

According to the superintendent’s April 16, 2023 email follow up from the board meeting, he had “been communicating with the school attorney relative to Policy 6300 Review of Instructional materials” and was going to have an updated draft policy for review by the American Civics Committee. So, not only was he complicit in violating the existing policy with Terri Cunningham-Swanson, but he was now also working on revising it.

Attorneys aren’t cheap. They charge by the hour, with a going rate of upwards of $350.00 per hour in the Omaha metro. It’s interesting to note that Terri voted No on pay raises for the school district’s salaried and support staff at the April 10, 2023 board meeting, without considering the cost of her actions associated with the book ban. More on that to come in future parts, my friends.

Moving on!

These emails through the end of April continue with discussions about the review committee and Terri counting up naughty words. Yes, this woman emailed the middle school principal on April 21, 2023 to let him know she wanted two books removed from their library shelves, all because of the profanity count. “Profanity” included words that start with A, B, C, D, F, P, Q, S… Apparently, the whole alphabet is offensive to Terri and these Moms For Liberty-run “book review” sites.

There are also two people in particular who emailed Terri regarding her book banning crusade that send up red flags. One is Derek Winterstien, who is well known to police in both Plattsmouth and Nebraska City. His email talks about how he went into the library and took pictures of books he was concerned about, especially those that promote “alternative sexual behavior” and what he considers extreme liberal ideas. Derek has a bizarre history of taking photos and videos of anyone and anything he doesn’t like without consent or permission. This is one of his long-time intimidation tactics that he likes to use against those around him, and we’ll talk more about him in the next post.

The other is from a para at the schools, who encourages Terri to see about getting the Bible and religious material added. Clearly, this person doesn’t comprehend that this is a public school, not a Christian one. As you will see, higher education does not equal intelligence with most of these folks.

4-25-2023 Email from Para to add religious materials - Nebraska Meadowlark
Perhaps you could find a job elsewhere, not in an educational institution protected by separation of church and state.


Terri seemed shocked to learn that both students and parents were cognizant of what was going on in their own school. Could it be that she was wrong – that parents in Plattsmouth are, indeed, “intimately involved in the education of their children and know what is happening in the schools in their community”? Be careful what you wish for, Terri. This is also when she starts claiming the material removed “by every objective and legal definition, is pornographic.”

Terri and her followers act like teachers are handing books to teenagers and whispering, “Here’s a manual on how to be gay,” and Terri takes pleasure in manufacturing that fear. Of course, her early emails make her seem like she’s innocent and shocked, just so shocked, that there are books that portray diverse characters and experiences and challenges a young adult might encounter in the real world. And she uses this to her advantage in manipulating the people of Plattsmouth.

Also, is anyone else bothered that Terri uses a word like “intimate” when it comes to children? We’re just saying, that’s some icky phrasing. Yet, this is the point at which she starts whipping people up into a frenzy because the word “porn” triggers them. Oh yes, she knows how to play people. All it takes is inciting fear.

Let’s end this on a positive note, shall we. Terri stated in her April 23, 2023 email, “I truly believe that modeling healthy ways to communicate and to deal with conflict may be the most important thing we teach our students this entire year.”

Interesting, considering the behavior we will see from Terri and her supporters over the next several posts. Folks, prepare yourselves for a wild ride from the heart of Cass County, Nebraska.

More about Nico Emerson

Nicolette "Nico" L. Emerson is an observer of politics in small town Nebraska, especially as it pertains to education, school boards, and adults who want to decide the direction of the next generation.