EDUCATION & SCHOOLS

Parents of female student-athlete at the center of controversy call on school board member to resign

Feb 7, 2024, 11:10 PM | Updated: Feb 8, 2024, 5:40 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The parents of a 16-year-old student-athlete are calling on Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline to resign after they said she insinuated their daughter was a boy in an online post.

Cline posted a picture featuring Al and Rachel van der Beek’s teenage daughter in her basketball uniform on Facebook. The caption said, “Girls’ basketball…”

The post was a screenshot of an Instagram post advertising Tuesday’s basketball game, as well as a picture of a banner hung in the school gym featuring members of the basketball team.

KSL is not sharing the name of the school or the student’s identity.

Cox, Henderson denounce behavior of school board member Natalie Cline

The van der Beeks said school officials called them Wednesday morning to make them aware of Cline’s post and the comments.

“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 van der Beek said. “Basically, your daughter is accused of being a boy playing girls’ basketball.”

The parents believe Cline insinuated their daughter is a boy.

“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 van der Beek said.

Al van der Beek called the comments underneath the post, which Cline later deleted, disgusting.

“It was cyberbullying at its finest,” he said. The couple describes their daughter as a tomboy.

“She cut her hair short because that’s how she feels comfortable, she wears clothes that are a little baggy, she goes to the gym all the time so she’s got muscles,” Al van der Beek said.

Rachel van der Beek said her daughter has always had her own style.

‘Schoolyard bully’: Utah school board member Cline slammed for post about student athlete

“I would try to kind of maybe guide her into being what was more normal or what the world sometimes pictured a girl should look like, and that’s when we would butt heads and we would totally disagree,” she said. “As I encouraged her, then she started to blossom and her personality started coming out.”

Rachel van der Beek said they waited to tell their daughter about the widely circulated post after school Wednesday.

“It just broke our hearts that we needed to have this conversation with our daughter,” she said.

They said their daughter does not have social media on her phone.

“We just took her in another room and started telling her the truth,” Rachel van der Beek said. “We read her the post … we didn’t tell her what people were saying but we started telling her about the support.”

Cline posted a response, writing that multiple concerned parents shared the picture with her. She wrote in part, “My deepest apologies for the negative attention my post drew to innocent students and their families.”

Cline went on to say, “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.”

The van der Beeks said they’re disappointed Cline posted the picture without fact-checking.

“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,” Al van der Beek said.

They’re calling on Cline to resign.

“I feel like she should have a public apology that’s not just Facebook,” he said. They said their family is rallying around their daughter, but not every child has that support if they’re being bullied.

“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,” Al van der Beek said.

They have a message for other families experiencing cyberbullying.

“I want all the kids to know it’s OK to be who they are,” Rachel van der Beek said.

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Parents of female student-athlete at the center of controversy call on school board member to resign