Recall Terri Cunningham-Swanson: Part 7

Welcome! We’ve been writing about the saga of Terri Cunningham-Swanson, who was elected to the Plattsmouth School Board in November of 2022 and arrived in January of 2023 ready to ban some books. Why was she banning books? Because she equated them with pornography.

Read Dirty to Me

This has been a favorite agenda of Moms for Liberty and anyone buying into the conspiracy theories peddled by The Mind Polluters. Terri often references another conspiracy theory known as “cultural Marxism” as well.

Words like pornography, Communist, Socialist and Marxist are used to frighten people. Those who use them know it’s inflammatory and intellectually dishonest to ask people if they want pornography in school libraries, because of course no one in their right mind is going to respond “Yes”. However, there’s never an option to ask someone to define the word—or any of the words used in these scenarios—so let’s do that today, courtesy of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  1. 1. The depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
  2. 2. Material (such as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement
  3. 3. The depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.

The way Terri and her ilk interpret this definition is to apply it to a few pages in a book, and automatically claim the book in its entirety is pornography. 

What these books lack, however, is the ability to meet the Miller test. In 1973, the Supreme Court took a more nuanced view when they created this test to determine what constituted obscene material:

  1. 1. Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  2. 2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  3. 3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied.

This circles everything back around to the question of context as discussed in our last post, something Terri discounted as being pertinent, except when it came to presenting her side of the story.

As June rolled on, Terri continued to correspond with various supporters, which included the June 1, 2023 email to Lisa Winterstien not only stating she hadn’t read all the books, but also claiming the review couldn’t start until the policy revision passed.

6-1-2023 Terri has not read all the books


Why not? The prior policy had criteria regarding appointing a review committee. Why did they have to wait for the existing policy, under which the books had been removed, to be revised? 

Linda Vermooten and Jerrod Cunningham returned to the school board for the June 12, 2023 meeting to speak in favor of book banning. As a reminder, neither they nor their children attended Plattsmouth School District, so other than Jerrod being Terri’s son and Linda being concerned about a tsunami of pornographic addiction, why should they care?

On June 13, 2023, the superintendent sent an email to all board members to remind them to save all of their emails, since the ACLU had put them on notice regarding the likelihood of filing a lawsuit against the district. Terri was about to go on vacation and made sure everyone knew how important the matter was to her.

TCS is going on vacay


Once Terri returned on June 27, 2023, she forwarded the email regarding the ACLU lawsuit, as well as a recent email from a supporter, to another attorney who specializes in religious freedom.

TCS forwards email to MCannonLaw

Great idea. We would very much like freedom from your religion! 

Meanwhile, Roberta “Robbie” Adams, who we mentioned briefly in Part 5, emailed from the “Protect Our Kids Committee” to request the book challenge form.

Roberta Adams wants complaint forms

Ma’am, you don’t even live in Cass County, and we know you claim it’s your social responsibility to have input in the schools… But what about these “parents rights” we keep hearing so much about? Should parents only have rights when their opinions agree with yours?

July was a big month for Terri, who had already spent the first half of 2023 trying to convince people to buy into the same conspiracy theories she believed. People had been floating the idea of recalling her as early as May, and this was the month they could finally take action on it. 

The July 10, 2023 board meeting included 4 community members who spoke about Terri’s no-no list of books she wanted banned. Three of those speakers were parents with students attending the schools. Very little was discussed as far as Policy 6300, other than Terri moving to remove the word “instructional” from Form 6300B.

Form 6300B is the permission form that parents must sign to give students access to the “restricted content” section of the library, though such a section had yet to become a reality with the books awaiting review. As you can see, the form is a misleading bit of propaganda, as it supports Terri’s demented idea that pornography exists in the school libraries. We hope the Plattsmouth School Board will correct the form for the 2024-2025 school year.

The idea of a restricted section was brought up by students and parents as a compromise, one Terri didn’t like.

TCS does not want compromise


After the school board vote that returned the books to the high and middle school library shelves following the November 2023 board meeting, Terri’s group was polled about the vote. The overwhelming response was that everyone said they wanted the books removed entirely.

Nov 2023 TCS supporters dont want compromise
Taxpayers aren’t paying for the existing books. Seriously, Lisa, we have to ask again: are you okay?


Some folks in her support group called for a compromise, which they then rejected, still under the misguided belief that there was pornography on school library shelves. Besides, there was already a proposed compromise in place.

This was also when Terri and many of her supporters got even louder about their “it’s not a ban” nonsense.

Lisa Winterstien doesnt understand the word ban


The Free Speech Center explains a ban so simply that a 5-year-old or even Lisa can understand it, and also presents this definition on their website:

Book banning, a form of censorship, occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they object to their content, ideas, or themes. (Webb, Susan L. Free Speech Center. September 19, 2023,

However, Terri continued to claim that removing the books on her no-no list from the shelves for review and, if she and her little cult got her way, the school district entirely did not constitute a ban. Why? 

Because her perspective was that a ban meant students couldn’t bring their own personal copies of the books from home, or the books would no longer be available for the general public to purchase. In her eyes, it was simply “curating” content on the grounds that she found it pornographic.

Since we’ve been looking at definitions and examples, let’s look at the definition of curate from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

  1. 1. to select (the best or most appropriate) especially for presentation, distribution or publication: such as
  2. a. to select and organize (artistic works) for presentation in (something, such as an exhibit, show, or program)
  3. b. to select and organize (articles, images, etc.) for distribution or publication

Yet Terri wasn’t selecting something to show or distribute. She was selecting material to get rid of it. It goes without saying that the people smart enough not to buy into this load of crap continued to call her out on her book ban. What most community members and parents feared was that this was just one step from banning the books from school altogether.

On July 6, 2023, Plattsmouth resident and alumnus, Ryan Whitmore, filed for the first petition to initiate the recall of Terri Cunningham-Swanson. To recall an elected official in the state of Nebraska, residents must collect a certain percentage of signatures of registered voters within 30 days. If that threshold is met or exceeded, a recall election will be set. If not, the initiative fails and goes back to square one. If the petition is successful, an election is scheduled and conducted by mail-in ballot. Once the results are in, an elected official is either removed from office or the vote fails and they remain in office.

Ryan’s reason for recall stated:

“Terri has decided to push an extreme personal agenda that will be a burden on the staff and taxpayers. The agenda is to remove materials that are related to LGBTIA+, showing certain minorities in a positive light, and showing Christianity in a negative light.”

Terri’s defense statement included out-of-context quotes from 3 books, followed by:


As with her attempts to mislead community members into believing there was pornography in schools, she picked and chose only what substantiated her agenda.

Ryan’s work was immediately met with both approval and scorn. Those who agreed with his efforts signed the petition. Those who believed Terri’s fear-mongering heaped verbal abuse on Ryan, including calling him a pedophile, groomer and chimo. 

Ryan is called names


Things got nastier throughout the summer. Folks continued to hurl these kinds of accusations at anyone involved in the recall process.

We’re also not saying the people on the side of the recall behaved perfectly. Tempers were lost on both sides, most notably by Ryan, who is not only entertaining in his aggression but also far more intelligent than people realize if they look past how he phrases his responses. There was a memorable confrontation between Ryan and Glennia Sand in the Plattsmouth Town Crier, for which Ryan apologized. 

We’ve noticed he is always willing to admit when he is wrong or has behaved inappropriately. We can’t say the same for Terri or her supporters.

Glennia went on to scream about this altercation to the point of harassment and wishing violence on Ryan.

Glennia tells Ryan to play on the interstate


To this day, the ladybro still refers to Ryan as a “harasser of old ladies” because of one argument where he was rude to her (and apologized), and all the times he has pointed out her hypocrisy. As with Lisa, we don’t know what’s wrong with Glennia, but hope she’ll eventually be okay.

The problem as some of the people on both sides of the recall saw it was that Ryan was too aggressive with people who called him or anyone else a pedophile, groomer or child molester. We can’t blame him for that, considering the hyperbolic and hateful language used by Terri and her supporters. 

Unfortunately, the seeds of dissent and division that Terri had sown in Plattsmouth were well and truly planted.

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.