US school board member who appeared to question girl’s gender on social media criticised

The high school student received several threats following the social media post.
The high school student received several threats following the social media post. Photo credit: Getty Images

Story by CNN

Utah's State Legislature has voted to censure a state board of education member whose social media post last week appeared to raise questions about a high school girl's gender.

Natalie Cline, a member of the Utah State Board of Education since 2020, posted a photo of the high school basketball player and falsely implied the student is transgender, writing: "Girls' basketball..."

The teenage girl in Utah faced threats after Cline's posts, which drew condemnation from Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson - who both urged state education officials to hold her accountable.

On Wednesday, the Utah State Board of Education approved a resolution to censure Cline, stripping her of committee assignments and asking her to resign, according to a news release.

"The Board voted to request Member Cline's resignation from the Board by February 19, 2024," the board said in the release. "Additionally, she will be removed from all committee assignments, not be allowed to place items on upcoming Board agendas, and prohibited from attending any Board advisory committee meetings."

Both houses of Utah's Legislature on Thursday passed a censure resolution against Cline, saying that her "bullying and failure to treat a student with dignity and respect undermine the mission of the USBE and displays a selfish indifference to her sworn oath to discharge her board member duties with fidelity."

"Cline's abhorrent actions caused the student emotional harm and exposed the student to relentless harassment and bullying, including threats of violence that created a need for additional security at the student's school," the resolution says.

The governor later signed the resolution censuring Cline.

"The vast majority of Utahns agree that Natalie Cline's behavior was unacceptable. I've spoken with the student's parents and I'm heartbroken for this family. We agree with the actions of both the State Board of Education and Legislature, and we hope the voters will hold her equally accountable this fall," the governor's office wrote.

CNN has reached out to Cline for comment.

After Cline's social media posts, the parents of the high school girl urged Cline to resign from the school board, telling CNN affiliate KSL that their daughter is a tomboy who has short hair, wears baggy clothing and has muscles from going to the gym.

"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," the girl's mother told KSL. "It just broke our hearts that we needed to have this conversation with our daughter."

Cline last week issued a public apology in a Facebook post that also pointed to her free speech rights. "My deepest apologies for the negative attention my post drew to innocent students and their families," she wrote.

In the post, which has the header "Constitutionally Protected Speech," Cline says she removed her original post to protect the player after parents raised concerns, and she asserted she "never claimed the student was a boy."

"She does have a larger build, like her parents," Cline said of the high school girl. "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's statements came after a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ legislation and the enactments of new laws targeting transgender people around the country.

In 2022, the Utah legislature banned transgender girls from competing in high school sports. The bill was vetoed by Cox, who said it targeted a marginalized group with a high suicide rate, but in March of that year GOP lawmakers overrode the governor's veto.