The Utah State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday night requesting that embattled board member Natalie Cline resign immediately.

The resolution approved by the board also included formal censure, removing Cline from all standing committees and any additional board committee assignments. She is also prohibited from placing items on upcoming board agendas and barred from attending any board advisory committee meetings.

The sanctions become effective immediately through Dec. 31, 2024. The sanctions were the maximum the board could level under its bylaws.

“I think our body is very concerned about the action that was taken. We are very concerned about the student who was referenced in a public post,” said board chairman Jim Moss.

“I want to express my concern for this student athlete and the desire to protect all of our students from any public shame or scrutiny of this type.”

Cline did not attend the meeting in person or participate electronically.

The Utah State Board of Education has no authority to unseat an elected official. 

The Utah State Board of Education met in closed session for three hours before returning to open session to vote on the resolution.

Board member Christina Boggess moved to divide the motion, for the board to consider singularly the request for Cline’s immediate resignation.

“I believe that the request for resignation rests with member Cline’s constituents and not with me as I am not one of her constituents. So I would not feel comfortable voting on that at this time. I know others in the room have different opinions but I do believe that the will of the voters will prevail as this is an election season. I don’t feel comfortable voting on that at this time,” Boggess said.

The motion failed.

When the board voted on the resolution, Boggess said “the crux of the issue is a line here has been crossed,” she said.

Cline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cline came under fire last week after posting on social media an image of a female high school basketball player that inferred she is transgender. She took down the post, apologized on a subsequent social media post but the girl’s father said by then, “the damage had already been done.”

Prior to the state board’s special meeting, Cline cried foul about the process in emails and social media.

“I would like to participate in the process and defend myself. However, the @utboardofed is moving so quickly that they are making it impossible for me to read through all the materials they have provided, gather evidence, draft a response, and prepare for a hearing,” she posted on Facebook.

“Hardened criminals get better due process than I am being provided. Is a decision by the Board legitimate if you don’t provide the accused with proper due process rights?”

In an email to the board’s leadership that she posted on Facebook, Cline wrote that the board has “harassed me on multiple occasions for my social media posts in what appears to be a concerted effort to destroy my reputation with my voters. This latest action is moving faster than usual and is acting within 60 days of my primary election at the Salt Lake County GOP convention on April 13, 2024.”

She continued, “Government agencies that care about their reputations with the public tend to be cautious about taking action that voters may see as election interference.”

Cline has met with the GOP House leadership team, spokeswoman Alexa Musselman confirmed but she did not respond to other questions such as when the meeting occurred or what was discussed.

Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, during a daily briefing with reporters on Wednesday, said Senate leaders have not met with Cline.

Senate leaders disputed her claims of election interference, noting she triggered the chain of events with her social media posts.

“Anything that transpires from that is all triggered from her incident,” said Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City.

“She put herself in that position,” said Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City. “It’s on her. She should be accountable for her actions.”

Adams said there remains time in the legislative session to address Cline’s actions, whatever route lawmakers elect to pursue, which has not yet been determined.

He reiterated his concern for the target of the posts.

“If you don’t feel for the young lady there is something wrong with you,” Adams said.

At Wednesday’s weekly media briefing by House Democrats, Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, told reporters he was a member of the Utah Legislature when the House launched an investigation into then-Attorney General Swallow in 2013 that could have led to an impeachment had he not resigned.

Briscoe said if Republicans had “spent a significant amount of time behind closed doors” with Swallow ahead of their action, “people would have been outraged — what are you doing talking to a guy that you’re talking about taking action against?” 

Cline’s statements come as the chorus of rebuke for her inflammatory social media posts intensifies.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, legislative leaders, state and local school boards and municipalities have issued statements condemning the posts. Some city councils and local school boards passed resolutions calling for Cline’s immediate resignation.

The Utah Legislature is crafting a resolution that could result in Cline facing impeachment proceedings or possible other sanctions.

Tuesday evening, local school boards representing the Jordan School District and Canyons School District each approved resolutions calling for Cline’s resignation.

The Jordan board’s statement noted its support for the student and family who are “the most recent victims” of Cline’s online attacks, noting the state board district that Cline was elected to serve “represents most of our district.”

“Based on board member Cline’s pattern of irresponsible behavior, negligent disregard for the consequences of her actions and her attacks on the teachers and students whom she has elected to serve, we call on her to resign her position immediately,” the statement said.

The board voted 6-1 in support of the statement, with board member Brian Barnett, who represents the Bluffdale and Riverton areas, voting no.

While he agreed with the language in support of victims of Cline’s behavior, Barnett said there is another remedy to removing a board member, by election. Cline is running for reelection and is opposed by Republican candidate Amanda Bollinger and Democrat William Shiflett.

Calling for her resignation, “it seemed kind of outside of the responsibilities of us as a board,” Barnett said.

Gov. Cox, civil rights organizations rebuke state school board member over targeting student athlete

Meanwhile, the Canyons board voted unanimously on a resolution that also called for Cline’s resignation.

The resolution noted that Midvale City, a Canyons city that is represented by Cline on the state board, has publicly asked for her resignation.

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The resolution said in part, “Every child has the right to a safe and welcoming educational environment, and state Board member Cline’s pattern of unkind and objectionable conduct has repeatedly violated her office’s sacred obligation to protect Utah school children from harm.”

It continued, “We believe elected officials, especially those in positions of power over Utah’s schools, bear the responsibility to represent and protect children from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and bullying.”

The board resolved to join with the Granite School District Board of Education in calling for board member Natalie Cline’s “immediate resignation from the Utah State Board of Education.”

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche

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