Former USBE member Natalie Cline forced to resign for misgendering student-athlete 

Reading Time: 3 minutes As it turns out, “constitutionally protected speech” does have consequences – especially when it brings appropriate educator-student conduct and personal rights into question. ?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Natalie Cline, a former member of the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), has made it to national headlines as she recently came under fire for a controversial social media post. The post was initially published on Facebook, but screenshots were reportedly circulating on other platforms, such as Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).  

Cline, who is known to be an “ultra-conservative and outspoken member” of the board, posted a flyer for a Salt Lake County high school girls’ basketball team. She captioned it “Girls’ basketball.” According to The Salt Lake Tribune, this post is “implying that one of the players was not female, suggesting she shouldn’t be able to play.” 

Many who saw the post were extremely unhappy and took to the comments to let her know. Soon enough, Cline’s social media accounts were plastered with people identifying the player and the school, as well as using vulgar language and even threatening to call the school’s principal. Cline tried to protect her own speech by preluding her remarks with the line “[Constitutionally Protected Speech].”  

Not only did several of Cline’s colleagues echo their outrage and disapproval of her actions, but many Republican state leaders joined in the chorus as well.  

Gov. Spencer Cox (R) and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson (R) delivered a statement on Feb. 7 in which they publicly denounced her. They revealed that Cline is an epicenter for discourse and that this is not her first offense. “Sadly, this is not the first time that board member Cline has embarrassed the state of Utah and State Board of Education,” the statement officially said.  

This comes amid ongoing controversy among Utah’s state leaders and their views and policies regarding transgender individuals and their rights – especially those pertaining to children.  

Al and Rachel van der Beek, the parents of the 16-year-old female athlete, called for Cline to resign her position on the board and labeled her actions “cyberbullying at its finest.” Despite describing their daughter as a tomboy, the pair stands firm in their belief that “To look at someone’s outer appearance and make an assumption that they’re either playing in the right arena or not, based on how someone looks I don’t think is appropriate.” 

According to Al van der Beek, “Here’s a person that is supposed to be in a position of leadership that advocates for our children’s safety, wellbeing, their privacy and she’s the one who has instigated this post that has led to all this hate.” He went even further to say that if their daughter was lacking the character and the right support system, in the “[w]orst case scenario, she could’ve ended her own life.”? 

Cline’s professional biographical profile for the USBE explained that she “has been deeply involved in the fight for religious freedom, pro-life legislation, and family-friendly education policy for the past decade.” In 2010, she participated in a rescue mission with the Utah Hospital Task Force rescue to Haiti after the devastating earthquake. Her bio also said that she “seeks to restore freedom in America by ensuring every student in Utah is educated in the principles of freedom.” 

The incident was discussed in a closed-door session with the Utah State Board of Education on Wednesday, Feb. 14. Cline was absent from the meeting but was reportedly asked to resign immediately, with board member Emily Green citing, “Free speech does not give anyone the right to target, intimidate or harm young students.”  

Cline turned to social media to speak out against the board and defend her actions. KSL TV reported that she made many claims, including that she did not receive sufficient responses from board members. The report summarized a post she made, in which “Cline said she would like to respond but claimed she hadn’t been given due process by the board and again accused them of election interference. She said board members were publicly judging her before hearing her response and despite her issuing?a public apology.”  

The session concluded that Cline is to be stripped of her current committee assignments and barred from receiving any in the future. She has also lost her power to suggest agenda items and is uninvited from other board advisory committee meetings.