POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Utah State Board of Education votes to strip Natalie Cline of board powers, asks her to resign

Feb 14, 2024, 6:39 PM | Updated: Feb 15, 2024, 7:07 am

Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline did not attend the scheduled meeting at the Capi...

Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline did not attend the scheduled meeting at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. The board's leadership issued a statement on Thursday that said it “condemns the actions taken by board member Natalie Cline on her recent Facebook post directed toward a female high school student athlete in Utah. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — After discussion in an hourslong, closed-door session, the Utah State Board of Education voted publicly to strip Natalie Cline of several of her powers as a state board member in response to her post questioning the gender of a student-athlete online. The board also asked her to resign immediately.

The formal censure includes stripping her of committee assignments or getting new ones, her ability to place items on agendas and attending board advisory committee meetings.

“After reviewing all of the evidence, the crux of the issue is that a line here has been crossed,” board member Christina Boggess said.

“Free speech does not give anyone the right to target, intimidate or harm young students,” board member Emily Green said.

The formal resolution of censure is below.

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

After leaving its closed-door session, the board presented the motion that members would vote on:

A) The Board requests that Board Member Cline resign effective immediately.
B) The Board takes the following actions
1) Issue the resolution of formal censure of Member Cline dated Feb. 14, 2024, as presented.
2) Remove Member Cline from all standing Board committees and any additional Board committee assignments.
3) Prohibit Member Cline from placing items on upcoming Board agendas.
4) Prohibit Member Cline from attending any Board advisory committee meetings.
C) These actions are consistent with USBE bylaws and become effective immediately and will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2024.

However, five USBE board members wanted to vote separately on section A, whether they should ask Cline to resign, and then vote additionally on the other sanctions B and C together. That proposal failed in a 5-9 vote.

The board voted unanimously to the original motion and censured Cline, removed a majority of her powers on the board and ended the session.

Cline was absent from the meeting and did not vote on any of the motions.

Closed door meetings

Before the USBE meeting, KSL TV spoke with board member Sarah Reale, who said there’s a reason that a portion of the board meeting is behind closed doors.

“The purpose is because we are a board, we try to have unified voices when we make decisions. So any time I make a decision or any time we make a decision, it’s the board has said, and that’s the way this governing body works,” she said.

Cox, Henderson denounce behavior of school board member Natalie Cline

The board meets in closed executive sessions once a month, this particular session was scheduled by leadership in response to the Cline situation but the closed-door session is standard protocol for board personnel matters. The member at the center of any investigation is allowed to participate and defend themselves.

Cline’s claims against the board

Earlier in the day, Cline took aim at the board alleging claims of election interference from the USBE on her Facebook page.

“Has the USBE analyzed whether this investigation is election interference? Has the USBE considered whether voters see any action against me at this time (within 60 days of the Salt Lake County GOP convention) as the USBE endorsing my opponent in the primary race? Can you send me your legal analysis of this issue?” Cline said in a letter to the board.

Utah transgender teens, parents ask for understanding after bathroom law, Natalie Cline post

The board responded to Cline’s claims of interference, saying the law she cited, UCA 63A-14, does not apply to the members of the USBE, and the 60-day time frame that Cline calculated was inaccurate, as the complaints were filed on Feb. 7, not Wednesday.

The board also said that the Salt Lake County Nominating Convention is not considered an election under state law and does not fall under UCA 63A-14.

A second post from Cline then called the board’s response to her “insufficient.”

In that post, Cline said she would like to respond but claimed she hadn’t been given due process by the board and again accused them of election interference. She said board members were publicly judging her before hearing her response and despite her issuing a public apology.

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

Formal resolution of censure from Utah State Board of Education to member Natalie Cline by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

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Utah State Board of Education votes to strip Natalie Cline of board powers, asks her to resign