Recall Terri Cunningham-Swanson: Part 4

Welcome back, friends. We hope your holidays, no matter what you personally celebrate, were merry, bright, blessed, relaxing—whatever adjective you wanted most for that special time. We’re here with Part 4 of our story on what happened to get the people of Plattsmouth where they are today: in an effort to recall Terri Cunningham-Swanson from the school board.

As we saw previously, her book banning crusade began within months of her being sworn in to her elected office. She kept it completely on the down-low, and the board, superintendent and principals did not inform parents of what was happening. Not only that, but Terri had a couple of allies show up at the April school board meeting and speak in favor of her agenda, even though no one in the community had any knowledge that this was going on and therefore could not present an opposing view. Funny, considering she spends much of her time later claiming that the books in the school libraries need to represent all sides of a situation.

Nov 2023 TCS wants opposing views
And what “opposing view” do you want for books such as The Hate U Give and Ghost Boys? Books stating that we should turn a blind eye to racism?


There is so much more to unpack, because things escalated very quickly once students got wind of what was happening in their schools.

(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Read)

No one knows how news of the book banning got out, because no one was actually informed that it was happening. Nothing was said to anyone outside the school board, superintendent, principals, and few teachers involved. There was no formal notice to parents. How odd that Terri Cunningham-Swanson ran her campaign on a platform of transparency, yet did her best to avoid it when it came to pushing her own personal agenda.

Terri campaigned on transparency but doesn’t seem to understand the definition of it.


Where was the “Total transparency between school administration, teachers and parents” in this situation? That is a question Terri has yet to answer, but she had plenty of time to write that lengthy email on April 23, 2023, and then also to email individual apologies to the superintendent, high school principal, director of instructional services, and every board member and complain “The last few days have felt like being hit by a Mack truck.”

Gosh, Terri, this is what happens when you lie about ensuring “total transparency” and then go behind the backs of an entire community.

Of course, Karla Burkes Higgins—who homeschools her teenagers—and Terri’s son knew, because they were invited by her to speak at the April board meeting. On a matter that doesn’t even affect them.


Karla homeschools
We believe you have the right to educate your children as you choose. But why deprive other parents of library books in a school your children don’t even attend? How is encouraging literacy a failure? Furthermore, how do you know the school is “failing” if your children don’t attend it?


These people claim to represent the Christian worldview and beliefs. Please know that this kind of deceit does not reflect our understanding or belief of what it means to be a Christian.

At this point, since the school had not notified parents or guardians of the supposed existence of “pornography” in the library, the students took matters into their own hands. They planned a protest at the high school campus for Wednesday, April 26, 2023, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., with a complete itinerary for the event:

Protest Itinerary

News coverage of the protest appeared on KETV, KMTV, and WOWT. Up until this point, there was zero input from the parents and guardians in the district. Why? Because they didn’t know until the students stepped up to fight the impending book ban when they learned 52 books had been pulled off library shelves.

Some parents and community members showed up at the protest to observe, which was permitted. However, some showed up to take video of the protest and one of them was Derek Winterstien, the husband of Lisa Winterstien. You remember Derek and Lisa, right? We’re going to get to know them a little bit more.

Lisa’s Facebook profile says, “I work hard, enjoy debating others, time with family, and I have a sick sense of humor.” Honey, we can tell you’re sick, considering you mocked a victim of sexual assault. At least you acknowledge you’re mentally ill. Now maybe get some help and develop some actual self-awareness, and you might be able to grow into a decent person in mid-life.

Her husband, Derek, must be one of those guys who likes ‘em young. He was born in 1974 and he married Lisa, who was born in 1982, on July 17, 1999. This was just before she started her senior year in high school. It must have been interesting to let her classmates know her mom, dad, grandparents, and husband were there to see her graduate.

Derek still has a proclivity for playing with teenagers, because he showed up at the student protest, not to observe quietly, but to stir up trouble. As we already mentioned, he has a habit of doing this dating back to at least 2012 when he ran a bar in Nebraska City and kept a wall of pictures of people who pissed him off.

Apparently, Terri’s supposed goal of protecting minors—which Lisa and Derek claim to have bought into—means harassing them by taking video of them (without consent from the teenagers or their parents), yelling at them, honking at them, and making such a menace of yourself that you have to be told to leave by the high school principal and escorted off school property by the police. Good work, Derek!

After being told to leave for shouting “Support Terri,” to which the teenagers responded, “Keep your bans off our books,” Derek complained on video, which he then uploaded to Rumble (still out there without parental consent, mind you), and linked to Terri in an email to her.

4-26-2023 Derek emails videos to TCS
Out of curiosity, is God cool with a middle-aged man harassing teenagers, Derek? Which students did you speak with “throughout the day” while they were at school? Do their parents know you were distracting them from a learning environment?


Why even mention Terri’s supporters at all? First, to show you the kind of people she’s attracting. Second, because they love to throw around the phrase “intellectual dishonesty” while simultaneously accusing others of it and excusing themselves from constantly displaying it.

The other parents and community members present at the protest didn’t approach the students or get involved. Though they did observe 2 or 3 other people, believed by some to be sent by Terri, recording the protest. Those folks were never approached and asked to leave, which is odd considering they were also recording minors without parental consent. We thought Terri wanted to protect minors, not exploit them to make a point.

We dug into Nebraska laws and didn’t find anything specifically prohibiting this (it’s only prohibited with regard to “intimate areas”), but it also indicates a strange disconnect from the idea of protecting minors. Apparently, it’s not considered creepy to record them without their or their parents’ consent, but the moment they might read a book with some real world content, it’s time to freak out.

It’s also interesting to note that many of the books removed from the library shelves tackled topics that include consent. Isn’t it important to teach teenagers what consent is and is not, what a groomer is, and so forth, so they can protect themselves from creeps like Derek Winterstien?

After the protest, Terri told anyone who would listen that teenagers are not smart enough to organize such an event. She spread the idea that the parents did it because, according to her discussion with extremists Mark and Amber, Plattsmouth teenagers are not capable of thinking for themselves. Yet multiple parents reported that they had zero idea the book removal and review were even happening, until their teenagers told them about the protest that was planned.

Most adults in the community were supportive of the students’ actions. We won’t show you every single remark from the Plattsmouth Town Crier, because the thread is extensive. Some if it turned into arguing, with name calling on both sides—usually along the lines of “fascists/woke liberals.”

Apr 2023 Student Protest 1
Just a note that we didn’t blur the original poster’s name because he’s an important person in future posts!

Although school boards are not partisan, many people approached the issue with political insults. Throughout the saga that followed, there were ideas thrown around on both sides of what it means to be a conservative vs. a liberal, sometimes with “true” prefacing either word. There have been accusations that conservative voices are being drowned out, which couldn’t be further from the truth in a community with a conservative majority. The us vs. them rhetoric ignores the simple facts of partisan labels:

  1. 1. Conservatives believe in smaller government and fewer regulations (regulating what teenagers read is the opposite of that);
  2. 2. Conservatives stand for personal responsibility and individual liberty (a book ban flies in the face of that); and
  3. 3. Conservatives believe in empowering individuals to solve their own problems.

We would argue that if Terri or any of her supporters wish to apply “true” before conservative or liberal, then they should understand the meanings of those political beliefs and stop insulting the conservatives in Plattsmouth who stand on the opposite side of the recall issue.

What everyone could agree on was that Plattsmouth Community Schools had a problem. And that problem’s name was Terri Cunningham-Swanson.

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.