Leaders of the Utah State Board of Education took the “unprecedented” step of reprimanding board member Natalie Cline for social media posts that they said “incited hate speech” and resulted in Davis School District hiring additional security to patrol the Layton High School campus “to discourage potential violence.”
“This happened because of your post,” the letter states.
The letter, obtained by the Deseret News under a request through the Government Records Access Management Act, notes that in the eight months since Cline was sworn in as a member of the elected school board that she has “engendered controversy, frustration and anger toward the board, certain schools, certain educators and certain student populations with statements you have posted on your social media regarding our LGBTQIA+ community.”
The post injured not only the LGBTQIA+ community but also the board, the letter states.
“That is why we have taken this unprecedented action of sending you a letter of reprimand. We hope that in the future you would be more circumspect and mindful of all of Utah’s students when posting about sensitive issues,” the letter states.
Cline responded to an email from the Deseret News asking for clarification on the vote but did not comment further.
The letter, dated Aug. 24, is signed by State School Board Chairman Mark Huntsman and Vice Chairwomen Laura Belnap and Cindy Davis.
On Thursday, 12 board members voted to affirm the board leaders’ decision to issue a letter of reprimand. Cline and board member Jennie Earl voted no, and member James Moss abstained.
Late last month, the board announced it was reviewing social media posts by Cline for “potential board bylaw violations” after her posts regarding a sign posted outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seminary building located across the street from the Layton High School campus.
In the now-deleted Facebook post, Cline shared a photo of a sign that said, “If you are LGBTQIA+ welcome to seminary.”
Cline posted “Time to make some phone calls” and “The world is too much with us.”
Seminary is a private institution of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Students in Utah may attend seminary classes during the school day on a release program. The State School Board has no oversight of seminary curriculum or management.
Greg Smith, a former candidate for North Ogden City Council, reposted Cline’s post, adding the comment “Time to get out our muskets.”
Davis School District Superintendent Reid Newey and his staff “were so concerned at your post and those who commented on it that they hired additional security to patrol campus today to discourage potential violence. This happened because of your post,” the letter states.
The letter of reprimand said the message suggested in Cline’s “controversial posts, including this most recent one about Layton High, is contrary to the board’s ... stated position.”
The board’s resolution, titled Denouncing Racism and Embracing Equity in Utah Schools, calls on people to “abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group, to take action to create and maintain an environment of dignity and respect for all, and to strive for understanding.”
The letter continues, “The board also stated in this resolution that schools ‘should be a place where all students feel safe,’ that ‘education should create hope and inclusion,’ and that the board’s activities and policies ‘shall promote unity and civility among diverse groups.’”
Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams said the school district had no comment about the letter of reprimand but he confirmed it “did take additional precautions based on what we thought was a threat that could occur with some students who do attend our high school,” he said.
The letter notes that board leaders are unaware of any previous board that has taken action against one of its own members.
“We take this authority to reprimand a board member seriously and are unaware of any such action being previously taken against a board member until now,” the letter states.
Cline represents District 11 on the State School Board. She was elected in November 2020 and sworn into office in January.
Cline has received widespread attention for her controversial social media posts throughout her board service.
In February, an online petition called for Cline’s removal over a post that the petition said called on people to support “xenophobia, racism, homophobia and cultural regression,” as part of Cline’s ongoing campaign against the teaching of critical race theory in schools.