A school board member in Utah with a history of hateful posts was grilled by GOP lawmakers and the state’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, after she publicly questioned the gender of a 16-year-old high school athlete, who then faced a firestorm of harassment.
Natalie Cline, a first-term Republican board member of the Utah Department of Education, has regularly spewed hateful rhetoric on her Facebook page, including a post last Independence Day where she claimed schools were brainwashing children into “queer, gender bending ideologies.”
On Tuesday night, Cline shared a flier for a high school basketball team on her official Facebook page and implied that one of the featured athletes was transgender, writing, “Girls’ basketball...”
The post blew up with dozens of commenters making nasty remarks about the child, while others explained that the girl in question was not transgender. Her parents described the athlete as being a “tomboy” who has her “own style” in an interview with KSLTV, adding that she has a larger build, like them.
The deluge of harassment continued, however. The girl’s school district said the harassment became so bad, it had to appoint her police protection for her to continue attending class.
Even Cline has recognized her post was in poor taste, especially since she had no idea who the girl was. She released a half-hearted mea culpa on Wednesday, saying she offered her “deepest apologies” to the girl’s family and said she deleted her initial post to protect the student.
But included in Cline’s apology post was the baffling insinuation that it’s the fault of the transgender community that she got the teen’s gender wrong.
“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,” Cline wrote.
That apology, not surprisingly, didn’t do enough to sway the girl’s parents from calling for Cline’s resignation, and they appear to be receiving support from some of the state’s most anti-LGBTQ politicians.
State Rep. Kera Birkeland, a Republican who sponsored a 2o22 bill to ban transgender girls from playing in high school sports, commented that Cline shouldn’t have made her post without knowing all the facts.
“Has anyone talked to the student, the parents, or the school?” Birkeland commented under Cline’s since-deleted post. “Do you know if this KID is a boy or girl? This child is a minor being mocked and called out without any facts or proof.”
Gov. Cox, a Republican who last month signed a bill limiting bathroom access to transgender people in government buildings, appeared to be equally peeved by Cline’s antics this week. In a joint statement with the state’s lieutenant governor, he said Cline’s behavior was “unconscionable.”
“The last thing our children need is an elected official harassing them on social media,” the statement said. “Sadly, this is not the first time that board member Cline has embarrassed the state of Utah and State Board of Education. 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.”
Many of Utah’s other 14 school board members have distanced themselves from Cline’s hateful posts in the past. The board has reprimanded her on one occasion, after she called on her followers in 2021 to call and harass a school for hanging a pride flag.
Granite School District, which covers the school the student attends outside Salt Lake City, said in a statement that it has “significant concerns” with Cline’s post and that it’s worked to support and protect the student.
As a result of Birkeland’s bill to ban transgender athletes, students wishing to play sports in Utah must provide a birth certificate that documents their age and gender to be able to play. Despite this, the state has been the site of multiple bizarre conspiracies from parents who’ve claimed their daughters were competing against biological boys.
One of those instances, in 2022, came when two parents challenged the gender of a girl who’d beaten their children at a track meet in Utah. The case drew national headlines as the parents threw a fit, but the Utah High School Activities Association determined the athlete in question had always been female, citing records that went back to kindergarten.
By Thursday morning, Cline had turned off all comments under her Facebook posts. She did not respond to a list of questions sent by The Daily Beast.