POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Utah House opens resolution to address actions of education board member Natalie Cline

Feb 9, 2024, 11:57 AM | Updated: Feb 10, 2024, 11:49 am

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives took the first step of initiating possible punishment for Utah State Board Member Natalie Cline for a recent post she made about a female high school basketball player.

The House voted unanimously to open a bill file titled “Resolution to Address State School Board Member Natalie Cline.”

“Impeachment’s on the table. Everything’s on the table.” House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, told reporters following that vote.

The resolution allows the House to begin conversations, and get much-needed input from legislative lawyers, about what Cline’s punishment could be, including impeachment. The bill file is not specifically an article of impeachment. But that could be coming.

“This allows us to consider all options within our constitutional authority, and this is the responsibility of the legislature,” said Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, as he made a pitch for the resolution to be opened.
Spendlove later told reporters the resolution — outlining whatever punishment lawmakers decide — will be heard before the session ends in March.
“It’s being drafted right now. It’ll be debated in public. And I think that is the right way to be addressing it,” Spendlove said. “This is an event that happened this week, but it’s the culmination of a series of events. And that’s one of the things that we’ll be looking at is kind of the history. You know, anyone can make a mistake, but when there is a pattern, that’s where we have to address it,” he added.

Schultz said another option: empowering the state school board to impeach her. He said that it has been confirmed to him that the Legislature has the constitutional authority to give them power of impeachment.

“Currently, the state board does not have that power. It’s not been given to them. I have been on the phone with (Utah State Board of Education) Chair (Jim) Moss. We’ve had that discussion,” Schultz said.
Shultz also said he has mixed feelings about impeachment.
“When you impeach, you take the row of the voter away. So on the flip side, you know, you have to hold people accountable for their actions,” he said.
He also said that he thinks Cline’s post does rise to the level of malfeasance in office, a standard for impeachment.
“We, as office holders, take the oath of office. Part of that is that we discharge our duties with fidelity. I don’t think that happened in this case. I think she broke that oath of office.”
Meanwhile, Senate leaders addressed the issue as well, saying that they are working with the House.

“We’re going the be methodical, we’re going to be thoughtful,” said Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Kaysville.

The Cline controversy started when she posted images of a Utah high school girls basketball team with the comment, “Girls’ basketball…” that drew vitriolic comments about gender identity.

On Wednesday, the Granite School District said it had significant concerns with the apparent intent of Cline’s post and was working to ensure the safety and well-being of the student. KSL is not sharing the name of the school or the student’s identity.

Cox, Henderson denounce behavior of school board member Natalie Cline

Cline apologized for the post and removed it, but leaders and organizations around Utah, as well as a student-athlete’s parents, have called for Cline to resign her position with the Utah State Board of Education, where she is an elected official. Gov. Spencer Cox was among those condemning Cline’s actions.

Cline said in a Facebook post apology Wednesday that she “previously shared a public advertisement for a school basketball game” she said was sent to her by multiple concerned parents. “It created a firestorm around one of the players pictured.”

The student’s parents spoke with KSL TV and said Cline should resign.

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

Four members of the state board of education spoke out Thursday, condemning Cline’s actions.

“I’ve asked reached out to board leadership yesterday and today, urging them to call an emergency executive session where matters like this are addressed. I’m disappointed that we haven’t had one yet,” said board member Joseph Kerry, R–Ogden. Cline did not attend a scheduled board meeting Thursday and was not present online.

Many suggested things like a censure, to strip her of committees, possibly even take away her ability to speak or vote. Board member Brent Strate said he wants the maximum punishment Cline can get from the board.

“Here’s a minor, here’s a young female basketball player at a school, and she’s being targeted by an adult. And, you know, that just cannot stand. As adults, we have to be responsible for our actions. It’s a sad day,” he said.

Shultz also apologized to the girl’s family.
“I just want to say I’m sorry to the family. I can’t imagine, as a parent of four girls having to go through what that girl is going through and what that family is going through. It’s not fair and it’s not right.”

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Utah House opens resolution to address actions of education board member Natalie Cline