Feb 14, 2024 - News

Utah school board official disciplined after targeting teen athlete over gender

A portrait of a white woman with brown hair and white shirt.

Portrait of Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline. Image via USBE

The Utah State Board of Education on Wednesday took steps to limit the participation of fellow member Natalie Cline after she posted photos of a high school basketball player on social media, questioning her gender.

  • Cline's social media followers then targeted the girl with hate speech and threats.

Details: The board voted unanimously to remove Cline from all committees, barred her from attending advisory committee meetings and prohibited her from placing items on any meeting agendas until her current term ends.

  • They also requested her immediate resignation.
  • "The crux of the issue is that a line here has been crossed," said member Christina Boggess, a Republican who frequently votes with Cline.

The big picture: The measures are the most severe actions the board can legally take against a member — unless lawmakers move forward on a proposal to empower the board to impeach one of its own.

Catch up fast: The girl targeted by Cline faced threats and harassment, prompting the Granite School District to ramp up security in her school.

The other side: In letters Cline posted to Facebook on Tuesday and Wednesday, she accused the board and other state officials of bias and election interference.

  • "Your actions today will be seen as the Board endorsing my primary opponent and the culmination of three years of efforts by the Board to remove me and silence the voices of the voters I represent," she wrote.
  • Cline, who represents southwest Salt Lake County, will run against challenger Amanda Bollinger, an administrator with the Jordan School District, in the county Republican convention April 13. Cline argued the board cannot receive complaints less than 60 days before an election.

Yes, but: In a prepared statement Wednesday, a board spokesperson wrote that the election laws that Cline referred to don't apply to state school board members, and the 60 day threshold for complaints only applies to elections, not conventions.

What they're saying: "Since I took office in 2021, the USBE has harassed me on multiple occasions for my social media posts and abused its processes, in an attempt to damage my reputation with my voters," Cline wrote Wednesday.

Of note: Cline did not attend Wednesday's meeting, saying she had inadequate time to prepare answers to the allegations.

Flashback: The board in 2021 issued a letter of reprimand after determining Cline "incited hate speech" on social media when she posted a photo of a pride flag at a church facility adjacent to Layton High School, triggering threats.

  • It cleared Cline of wrongdoing last year after investigating complaints that she accused schools of supporting child sex trafficking and allegedly questioned the gender identity of a USBE staffer during a public presentation.
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