Utah school board member faces calls to resign over post falsely suggesting teen girl was transgender

Utah school board member faces calls to resign over post falsely suggesting teen girl was transgender

A Utah state school board member has come under fire for sharing a post in social media that appeared to falsely suggest a high school basketball player is transgender — sparking online threats against the 16-year-old girl.

Natalie Cline, a conservative member of the Utah Board of Education, posted a photo Tuesday on Facebook of Al and Rachel van der Beek’s daughter in uniform with the caption “Girls’ basketball,” KSL-TV reported.

She implied in the since-deleted screenshot of an Instagram ad about a game that the Salt Lake City girl is transgender and should not be allowed to play, according to the outlet.

The girl, who was not named, was reportedly inundated with hateful comments and threats from social media users who saw the outspoken Republican’s post.

Equality Utah said the teen is not transgender, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The van der Beeks told KSL that school officials called them Wednesday to inform them of Cline’s post and the hateful comments directed at their daughter, whom they described as a tomboy.

Utah state school board member Natalie Cline

Utah state school board member Natalie Cline is under fire after sharing a post implying that a 16-year-old girl on a high school basketball team is transgender. Utah State Board of Education

“Someone has posted some things on Facebook and it’s starting to get a lot of attention and there’s a lot of people commenting,” Al said. “Basically, your daughter is accused of being a boy playing girls’ basketball.”

“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,” Rachel told the outlet.

The elected 15-member school board reacted to the controversy on Thursday.

“The Utah State Board of Education leadership condemns the actions taken by Board Member Natalie Cline on her recent Facebook post directed toward a female high school student athlete in Utah,” it said in a statement.

Social media post

Cline’s since-deleted Facebook post incited an avalanche of threats against the girl. KSL

Social media post

The post suggested that the teen should not be allowed to compete on a girls’ team. Natalie Cline / Facebook

“Board Leadership is very concerned about this post and the harm it has caused to students and families in Utah. We are deeply saddened by the events that have taken place and will be taking prompt action regarding this matter as determined by the full Board,” it said.

The board noted, however, that it “has no power or authority to unseat an elected official,” adding that “if the full Board determines discipline is warranted, Board Bylaws provide guidelines for additional action.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, both Republicans, also denounced Cline.

Rachel and Al van der Beek

Rachel and Al van der Beek, the girl’s parents, are calling for Cline to resign. KSL-TV

“We were stunned to learn of the unconscionable behavior of board member Cline and others toward a high school student today. The last thing our children need is an elected official harassing them on social media,” Cox and Henderson said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“Sadly, this is not the first time that board member Cline has embarrassed the state of Utah and State Board of Education,” they said in the joint rebuke of the board member who previously faced calls to resign over inflammatory comments about LGBTQ+ students.

“We urge the State Board of Education to hold her accountable and we commend Granite School District for taking swift action to protect this student’s safety and well-being,” the two leaders added.

Natalie Cline

Natalie Cline has apologized for the post and acknowledged that the teen is not transgender. Natalie Cline / Facebook

On Wednesday, the embattled member apologized to the girl — while calling her post “Constitutionally Protected Speech.”

“I previously shared a public advertisement for a school basketball game that was sent to me by multiple concerned parents, and it created a firestorm around one of the players pictured,” Cline wrote.

“Personal information as well as derogatory comments about the player were made by several commenters. To protect the player, I have removed the post. My deepest apologies for the negative attention my post drew to innocent students and their families,” she wrote.

Rachel van der Beek

Rachel van der Beek and her husband were first alerted to the post by school officials. KSL

She insisted that she “never claimed the student was a boy,” adding that “for those who are still claiming the student is a boy, please know that several people I know and trust have reached out to me who personally know this girl and have vouched that she is in fact a biological girl and always has been since birth.”

Cline also noted that the girl “does have a larger build, like her parents.

“We live in strange times when it is normal to pause and wonder if people are what they say they are because of the push to normalize transgenderism in our society,” she wrote.

“We are all trying to preserve women’s sports and their privacy spaces. In doing so, we most certainly recognize that there is great variety within females when it comes to physical characteristics, and of course, we are accepting of these differences and want all girls to feel welcome in school sports,” Cline continued.

Al van der Beek

Al van der Beek said Cline should do more than apologize on Facebook. KSL

“Sadly, our good faith efforts to be accepting of differences has, at times, been taken advantage of causing a loss of trust, which leads to suspicion about girls who are more buff than most. This is a sad consequence of the trans movement being foisted upon us, which puts us all in a difficult spot,” she added.

Democratic state lawmakers have called for Cline to resign and said they’re working with attorneys to begin impeachment proceedings against her.

Republican leaders have not signaled whether they would support impeachment, but Senate President Stuart Adams on Thursday said he was “looking at all options” to address Cline’s “reprehensible” behavior.

The girl’s parents also called on Cline to resign.

“I feel like she should have a public apology that’s not just Facebook,” Al told KSL. “What if our daughter didn’t have that strong character and have our support, and community support to where she internalized this? Worst-case scenario, she could’ve ended her own life.”

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