Simplistically speaking, this Recall election demonstrates the clashing of worldviews.
#1) Some people want children/adolescents free to investigate sexuality, including wondering about being different from their birth assignment. They may think the culture already exposes adolescents to sexuality issues at young ages and schools could serve as a place to correct misunderstandings from culture. They want to listen to educational professionals trained in the universities. Stereotypically speaking, these people support the Recall.
#2) Other people want children/adolescents protected from sexual exposure at too young an age. Believing parents have a greater vested interest in their own children, they want parents to have more say than the university-trained in what schools teach. They prefer that values taught at home not be contradicted at school. They express the concern that exposure to sexually graphic content damages and actually rewires the brain by creating new neuropathways. Studies have shown this can lead to shortened attention span, inability to concentrate, porn and sexual addiction, increased aggression, early sexual activity in children and adolescents, sexual dysfunction and impotency in adulthood, depression and suicide. Again stereotypically speaking, these people oppose the Recall.
So, the question to the voters is, do they remove one of the school board members who apparently strongly resists the 1st view, or maintain representation of those hold to the 2nd view?
Background, Pros and Cons all mixed together.
Plattsmouth School District residents certainly know emotionally charged issues make objectivity difficult. Perceptions come out of conceptions and misconceptions. Starting with inaccurate information means very logical thinking still achieves wrong conclusions. Therefore we have tried to verify statements made by both those who support and those who oppose the recall. When things appear as perceptions without a way to verify, we try to say that.
Recall Website: https://www.recallterri.com/reason-for-recall/,
No Recall Website: https://www.norecall.info/
Those supporting the recall of School Board member Terri Cunningham-Swanson state at least these six reasons for doing the recall. They declare her unfit for the office of school board member because:
1) She wasted taxpayer money on an unsuccessful attempt to remove 52 books from the school library system.
That amount of money includes $9,175 paid to the committee that investigated the books in question. Legal fees relating to relating to Policy 6300 totalled $5,436.10 . They also say the $20,000 estimated recall election cost could have been avoided if she had resigned.
The board voted 7-1 to accept the recommendation (Nov minutes) from the selected committee assigned to read the books to determine if following Policy 6300 meant removing them from the collection. As stated in the Policy, "School administrators (principal and DIS) shall appoint a committee including staff members from the affected building(s) to study the complaint/challenge.”
That committee consisted of the leader, and 11 other members, 3 relating to the middle school, the other 8 to the high school. Those members' political party affiliations lined up fairly close to the percentage of those parties in Cass County. Only 6 of the 12 members live in the Plattsmouth School District so 6 of the members will have no vote.
Those who oppose the recall point out that no one board member authorizes expenses. Those who oppose the recall agreed that the books needed checking. They would even suggest the librarian failed to check the collection. They explain that even without reading ALL the books, they could use resources like booklooks.org that detail the content that goes against state law that defines pornography.
Some oppose the recall because they voted for Ms. Cunningham-Swanson since she clearly campaigned on her intention to protect children. Expert witnesses, a psychologist at May 8th meeting at 1:01:27 and a mental health nurse at 12:28 at Oct 9th meeting), addressed the danger of exposing children to sexual content at young ages.
Still others who oppose the recall say they would prefer quality books with educational value not needing graphic sexual content. They also suggest that civil discourse and discussion would be a better way to deal with opposing views than wasting taxpayers money in the range of $20,000 for doing the full mail-in recall ballot.
Those who oppose the recall will also quote the sad statistic of how many incarcerated individuals were sexually abused, addicted to pornography, or exposed to sexual content at a young age. They suggest the long term expense to society exceeds the expense of attempting to remove the books that could contribute to negative future outcomes.
2) Those who see Ms. Cunningham-Swanson as unfit and support the recall suggest her wanting to remove those books takes away the First Amendment rights of students.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Children do not have the right to vote, or drink alcohol, or even get a tattoo – because it is understood that children, even adolescents, continue in maturing. Driving age is limited too. Maybe the authors of the books might feel their First Amendment rights limited. However, the physical size of a library automatically limits the books maintained on the shelves. Librarians therefore carry a heavy responsibility of selecting books appropriate for age levels and community values. Policy 6300 describes what those materials (both library and curriculum) should be. An example is: "2. To provide materials that will support the curriculum, and provide materials on opposing sides of controversial issues, taking into consideration the individual's needs, and the varied interest, ability, socio-economic backgrounds, and maturity levels of the students served."
Some who support the recall refer to a U.S. Supreme Court case from 1969, Stanley v. Georgia. They claim it means possessing obscene material is allowed. The case involved the personal ownership of obscene materials by an adult. Those who oppose the recall do not want tax-payer dollars used to obtain and disseminate obscene materials to minors.
Those who support the recall suggest some of those books serve certain kinds of students, especially those in the LGBTQ community. Some have expressed how encouraged they felt when reading experiences like their own. However, some of those who oppose the recall want it known that gender dysphoria has been labeled mental illness for years.
They see the issue, not as censoring, but as collection management following policy for appropriate books on the limited shelf space. They are also concerned to not go against federal statements on obscenity. https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/citizens-guide-us-federal-law-obscenity
Some of those who oppose the recall express concern with taking away the First Amendment rights of parents who do not want those books, which go contrary to their personal beliefs, made available to their young and impressionable children and adolescents.
Those who oppose the recall suggest that children, even adolescents, are too young for exposure to the kinds of materials in some books. They also think that those who support the recall who assume kids get exposed anyway, appear to use the same logic as kids will be in car accidents anyway, so let them drive at age 8.
3) From https://www.recallterri.com/reason-for-recall/, "Cunningham-Swanson commonly appears unprepared for board meetings and regularly misses committee meetings."
The videos of the board meetings appear to have only one camera and only the same few people appear on the camera. Therefore those in attendance may perceive actions differently. Some saw her apparent inattention while texting, for example. Some claim she asks questions that would have been answered if she had read the packets provided before meetings.
Committee Meetings are not public, so official attendance isn't necessarily available. Since they can't have a quorum meeting outside the official school board meetings, no more than 4 board members participate in the committee. Other community members can attend those meetings. Both those who oppose and support the recall state she missed 2 meetings. Those who support the recall suggest missing 20% of the days we were supposed to be at work, would be considered "regularly absent".
Ms. Cunningham-Swanson explains those absences, and a lot of other information, in a long YouTube interview. Briefly she explained there had been 3 meetings already that month and couldn't take another day off work. The second miss resulted from the school email account not allowing her access to learn the change of meeting time in time.
NOTE: Earlier those who support the recall said Ms. Cunningham-Swanson had missed board meetings, but checking the minutes for each session since January, reveals she had perfect attendance.
4) The violating of the School Board's Code of Ethics by speaking publicly against her own constituents, educators, and fellow school board members.
In the October 9, 2023 meeting, at 25:41, a parent and staff member expressed her view that if she had behaved as Ms. Cunningham-Swanson, she would have been terminated.
An example statement in the Code of Ethics is:
2.c. To base personal decisions upon all available facts in each situation, to vote honest conviction in every case, unswayed by partisan bias of any kind; thereafter, to abide by and uphold the final majority decision of the Board of Education.
Both those who support and those who oppose the recall talk about the "gaveling" in the October 9th meeting. Go to 1:00:37 to hear when Ms. Cunningham-Swanson wants to discuss the books issue as part of a committee report. At 1:01:55 the president of the board interrupted asking to discuss it when "we get to the action item." You could keep watching and draw your own conclusions. According to the YouTube interview at 1:30:00, she reported the "strategy" planned against her. Then at 1:38:00, she explains that during the 5-minute declared recess the superintendent, the President and Ms. Cunningham-Swanson talked. One she pointed out that not allowing her to speak was shutting down around 1/2 of the people, they agreed to allow her time in the rest of the meeting.
5) Speaking against Plattsmouth Community Schools educators.
Those who support the recall point out repeated emphases that Ms. Cunningham-Swanson has made against the teachers/librarians in the schools. In a mass texting effort she stated, “…VOTE NO and stand with me to keep our schools safe for our kids and maintain an environment that promotes quality education, not indoctrination.” The https://www.norecall.info/ website includes the campaign slogan, apparently speaking against the existing school system, saying, “NO to obscenity in our schools, “NO to sexualizing students….” Those who support the recall find it not appropriate for a board member to speak against the schools they’re supposed to support.
Those supporting the recall used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain emails Ms. Cunningham-Swanson sent to the Superintendent and other board members. They view her apology for her manner of speech at a board meeting in April as evidence of her ineptness in the role. Those who oppose the recall instead see the apologies as a statement of the desire to work together for the benefit of the students.
Those who oppose the recall mainly see the attempt to remove sexualized content aimed at young students as an important thing to do. They see the need for Board members to oversee what happens in the schools. They also view the "NO" statements in a completely different light, seeing it as promoting Parental rights to lead and guide their child’s education as taking precedent over the school making these decisions without parental knowledge or consent. They also see it as the duty of the school board, elected to represent the community, for transparency and accountability to those who elected them. See Endorsements to hear from a local businessman and a couple of political office holders.
6) Inconsistent claims about parental rights.
Those who support the recall state that banning books prevents children from reaching their full potential. They feel parents, not the schools should decide what books their children read. The student protesters asked that certain books be permitted with parental written permission. They say that Ms. Cunningham-Swanson supposedly wants parents’ rights, but at the same time attempted to remove their say by taking out books she personally doesn’t like.
Those who oppose the recall suggest many parents lack awareness of the content of the books requested for review, saying other places would refer to it as “obscene” or as “pornography” according to state statutes. They agree that parents should have some say in the choices available in the library. One of those parents pointed out that school staff are not legally responsible for what happens to students (or by students) after exposure to such books and presentations.
Purpose of Recall/Defense statements:
The first recall attempt, which did not gather enough valid signatures, stated the reason for the recall as
“Terri Cunningham-Swanson has decided to push an extremist, personal agenda that will be a large burden on taxpayers and school staff.”
In the second recall attempt the stated reason was,
“Terri Cunningham-Swanson is a member of extremist groups and has a record of being anti-public education. Her proposed book ban goes against the First Amendment and is anti-American. Her ban will result in tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees that will inevitably be paid for by you. For these reasons, she is unfit for office.”
A professional librarian states, “Censoring” and “banning” are hot button words. They don’t address the purpose of the collection and how the content might add value or alternately reduce available funding for more on-target titles. Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) might be deemed inappropriate and not a good use of funds for an elementary school library but absolutely included in a high school collection.”
In response to the recall petition, Ms. Cunningham-Swanson stated as her defense:
Note: this is copied verbatim:
The real taxpayer burden is a recall election. Approximately $20,000. I’m labeled extreme for fighting to remove this: “for f* sake, man, you just had my d* in your mouth…”; “he frees his erection and shows me exactly how to use my mouth to…” “the swollen knob of his c* just outside my…” Offended? IT’S IN YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL"
Her defense for the second recall petition was:
“Exposure to sexually explicit media in early adolescence had a substantive relationship with risky sexual behavior...’PubMed Central’ A study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868356/) was conducted in 2013 to measure the effect of reading on the brain. It was found...when you read sensual scenes, your brain will MORE INTENSELY trigger your sexual desires." Marel a Bush”
A successful recall (a Yes vote), means Ms Cunningham-Swanson will be removed from office.
A failed recall (a No vote), means Ms Cunningham-Swanson will remain in office.
(1) Offer each individual the opportunity to develop competence in the basic skills of communications, computations, and knowledge of basic facts concerning the environment, history, and society;
(2) Offer each individual the opportunity to develop higher order thinking and problem-solving skills by means of adequate preparation in mathematics, science, the social sciences, and foreign languages and by means of appropriate and progressive use of technology;
(3) Instill in each individual the ability and desire to continue learning throughout his or her life;
(4) Encourage knowledge and understanding of political society and democracy in order to foster active participation;
(5) Encourage the creative potential of each individual through exposure to the fine arts and humanities;
(6) Encourage a basic understanding of and aid the development of good health habits; and
(7) Offer each individual the opportunity for career exploration and awareness."
Since state law makes no statement concerning exploring sexuality, those in category 2, do not want tax dollars assigned to that purpose.
 In examining the effects of sexualization of girls, the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls detailed a number of negative effects, including decreased cognitive functioning (e.g., impaired ability to concentrate), worsened physical and mental health (e.g., eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression), unrealistic expectations about sexuality, and reductionist beliefs of women as sexual objects. Found at https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2016.111206 referencing American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls: Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, 2007. http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf
Quote from PA D. Sue Shade, “Those of us trained in genetics realize that there are only two biologic genders. These are XX for girls and XY for boys. Unless the patient has Klinefelter syndrome. Then he is an XXY, but still an infertile male. As a retired Physician Assistant, I have experience in both physical and mental health fields. My early years focused on treatments in family and internal medicine. My later years focused on treating mental illness. Gender dysphoria is a mental disorder. My experience has been that people who go through sex change operations continue to be depressed. A physical surgery does not treat dysphoria. Nor does changing ones mode of dress, bathroom usage, or sports competitions. While these patients need compassionate treatment, we medical providers take an oath to do no harm. Mutilation of sex organs or treatment with hormones does physical and most often mental harm. We use female hormones and hormone suppressants to treat prostate cancer in men. This does not make them a woman. It makes for a miserable man who has cancer as well as hot flashes and the inability to perform sexually.”