UNITED STATES NEWS

Utah school board seeks resignation of member who questioned athlete’s gender

Feb 15, 2024, 11:02 AM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah State Board of Education has voted to censure and seek the resignation of a board member whose social media post questioning the gender of a high school basketball player incited threats against the girl.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday to reprimand and censure board member Natalie Cline and ask for her resignation by Feb. 19. The board will no longer allow her to attend meetings, serve on committees or put items on the agenda.

Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox had urged the board to take action against Cline, saying she embarrassed the state. The censure resolution said that any authority to impeach or remove Cline from the elected board rests with the Legislature.

Cline, who previously came under investigation for inflammatory comments about LGBTQ+ students, singled out the Salt Lake City athlete in a Facebook post that falsely insinuated the girl was transgender. Cline later apologized for provoking a firestorm of vulgar comments after she learned that the girl was not in fact trans.

But she defended her initial suspicions, saying that a national push to normalize transgender identities makes it “normal to pause and wonder if people are what they say they are.”

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Cline argued the board was taking away her right to represent her constituents without due process. She wrote that she did not have enough time to read all the materials and create a response before Wednesday’s meeting.

The Board of Education found Cline violated policies that require members to respect student privacy and to uphold state educator standards, which include not participating in sexual or emotional harassment of students and treating students with dignity and respect.

The resolution said Cline allowed negative comments about the girl to remain on her social media posts while comments in support of the student were deleted, which together “appeared to constitute cyberbullying as defined” in Utah law.

In a letter published in The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday the girl’s parents, Al and Rachel van der Beek, also urged Cline to resign.

“Ms. Cline did the very thing we teach our children not to do in terms of bullying, mocking and spreading rumors and gossip about others,” the letter said. “Ms. Cline did the very thing we teach our children not to do — she blasted social media without fact checking, which ultimately led to a barrage of hateful and despicable comments that were directed at our daughter that lasted for more than 16 hours.”

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Utah school board seeks resignation of member who questioned athlete’s gender