Small-town Nebraska voters remove school board member who tried to pull books from libraries

Jan 10, 2024, 4:51 PM

PLATTSMOUTH, Neb. (AP) — Voters decided to remove a small-town Nebraska school member from office after she tried to have dozens of books pulled from school libraries.

More than 1,600 Plattsmouth voters supported recalling Terri Cunningham-Swanson in a mail-in election this week. The Omaha World-Herald reported that about 1,000 people voted to keep her on the board she joined a year ago.

Cunningham-Swanson led an effort to have about 50 books removed from school libraries because of concerns about sexual content and adult themes in them. Some students protested and one librarian resigned after the books were pulled from library shelves while they were being reviewed.

Ultimately, only one book — “Triangles” by Ellen Hopkins that focuses on three women, including one whose marriage falls apart after she engages in extramarital sex — was pulled from the shelves. Eleven other books were put in a restricted section that students need parent permission to check books out from. More than 30 other books were kept on general library shelves.

When the book review was discussed at a fall meeting, other board members pointed out that the books that were challenged were rarely checked out in the Plattsmouth district, which is about 20 miles south of Omaha.

A judge recently blocked key parts of an Iowa law that bans public school libraries and classrooms from having practically any book that depicts sexual activity. Similar efforts to pass legislation around the U.S. have typically been backed by Republican lawmakers.

Jayden Speed, who led the campaign to recall Cunningham-Swanson, said the recall results were exciting.

“This has been a grassroots campaign, and it looks like Plattsmouth voters have rejected book-banning and the extremism that Terri and people like her have been pushing.”

But Cunningham-Swanson had said that voters should not have been surprised by her effort because she had expressed her concerns before she was voted into office. The slogan on her website opposing the recall urged residents to vote “no to obscenity in our schools, no to sexualizing students, no to woke ideologues, no to political bullies and no to the recall.”

“People that voted for me should have been very well informed on who I was and what I was going to do,” she said in a video posted to her website.

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Small-town Nebraska voters remove school board member who tried to pull books from libraries