Google Maps; Utah State Board of Education
A high school basketball player in Utah has been given official police protection after a state Board of Education member posted her picture on social media, speculating that she could be transgender.
In a Facebook post this past week, Utah Board of Education (BoE) member Natalie Cline reposted a screenshot of a Granite School District Instagram post about a girls’ basketball game, specifically a photo of one of the players. “Girls’ basketball…” read the caption, insinuating that the player is transgender and should not have been allowed on the team.
Cyberbullies quickly targeted the teenager and her family, NBC affiliate KSL-TV reported this week. The student has been given police protection for her own safety, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Al van der Beek, the teen’s father, clarified that his daughter is a “tomboy,” not trans, and called the litany of hateful comments on Cline’s post “disgusting.”
“Here’s a person that is supposed to be in a position of leadership that advocates for our children’s safety, wellbeing, their privacy,” he said of Cline, “and she’s the one who has instigated this post that has led to all this hate.”
Cline has since removed the Facebook post and issued a bizarre semi-apology on Thursday, in another post marked “[Constitutionally Protected Speech].” Cline apologized “for the negative attention my post drew” to the student, but went on to defend her actions at length, denying that she never “claimed the student was a boy.” Cline justified her suspicion of the teenager by citing her “larger build, like her parents” and complained it was “increasingly difficult to trust and to know how to protect children without hurting children,” blaming “the push to normalize transgenderism” for it all.
Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, both Republicans, issued a joint statement Tuesday saying Cline had “embarrassed the state of Utah” with her “unconscionable” post, and urging the BoE to “hold her accountable.” On Thursday, BoE leadership released a statement condemning Cline’s post, which stated the body does not have the power to expel members but “will be taking prompt action” to address the situation.
The law, 2024’s first piece of anti-LGBTQ\+ legislation, was introduced, passed, and enacted in less than a month.
Though Cline has only served on the BoE since 2020, this is far from the first time she has courted controversy on social media. In 2021, Cline — whose BoE biography touts her commitment to issues like “religious freedom, pro-life legislation, and family-friendly education policy” — posted a photo of an LGBTQ+ welcome sign at Layton High School Seminary, along with the caption “Time to make some phone calls. The world is too much with us.” After Cline’s followers and others on social media made threatening posts towards the school (including a former local city council candidate), BoE leadership sent Cline a letter of reprimand, Deseret reported at the time. Cline has also made false statements online about “critical race theory,” and last year invented claims that Utah educators are “brainwashing” minors and schools are “complicit in the grooming of children for sex trafficking.” Utah BoE leadership also condemned those statements.
Despite taking a strong rhetorical position against Cline’s most recent post, Gov. Cox’s actual stance on trans rights is murky, and his administration has been, at best, a mixed bag for trans Utahns. Cox has vetoed anti-trans bills in the past, and signed a conversion therapy ban last year. But just last week, Cox also signed his party’s latest “bathroom bill” into law, placing restrictions on where trans people can use public facilities like bathrooms and changing rooms. It was the first piece of anti-trans state legislation to be introduced, passed, and enacted this year.
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