Despite the overwhelming votes in the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah Senate to censure State School Board member Natalie Cline last week, she has announced on social media that she will seek reelection.

“IT’S OFFICIAL!!! I am running for re-election for State Board District,” Cline wrote in a Facebook post.

“I will continue working to protect children against the tsunami of education systems that are actively undermining FAITH, FAMILY, and FREEDOM.”

The announcement comes after both the Utah Legislature and Utah State Board of Education voted to censure Cline for posting on social media an image of a female high school basketball player that inferred the student athlete was transgender.

The girl’s parents said Cline’s announcement “did come as a surprise.”

“I felt like a punch to the stomach. We still believe the right thing to do would be for her to resign. At this point the best way to let our voices be heard is to show up and vote for a more qualified candidate. It’s ultimately up to the people of District 9,” said Rachel van der Beek, the girl’s mother.

Asked for his reaction, Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he “wasn’t surprised” by Cline’s announcement that she will seek reelection.

“I think we kind of made our position known fairly clear and she can listen or the voters can listen. But now it’s between her and the voters,” Adams said.

“The voters know where we’re at. I think it was a unanimous censure,” he said. The Utah Senate voted 29-0 and the Utah House of Representatives voted 72-2 to pass HCR18, with Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, and Rep. Brett Garner, D-West Valley City, voting no. Lyman is a Republican candidate for governor. Garner said he voted no because the bill didn’t go far enough.

Gov. Spencer Cox, who signed the resolution into law, and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson have also said Cline should resign.

Lauralee Solimeno and other protesters advocate for the resignation or impeachment of Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline in front of the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Cline posted a photo of a female student-athlete on her social media, suggesting her gender should be questioned. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Cline’s announcement said she will fight for children to be “free from divisive labels.”

It also states that she will continue working to protect children against the “tsunami of education systems that are actively undermining FAITH, FAMILY, and FREEDOM,” including systems that seek to ‘exploit children for political, sexual, social, environmental, and economic agendas.”

The post continues, “There is still so much work to be done!”

In addition to voting to censure Cline, the State School Board unanimously voted to remove her from all committee assignments, prohibit her attendance at any board advisory committee meetings and she is not allowed to place items on upcoming board agendas.

Legislative leaders, the Utah State Board of Education and multiple state and local leaders, have called on Cline to resign.

Utah House Minority Leader Angela Romero in a statement Tuesday, said she was “deeply disappointed” by Cline’s decision to seek reelection.

“While she has a history of targeting marginalized communities, an action often argued to be protected by freedom of speech, her latest move crossed a line. She targeted a child on social media, which led to censure by her colleagues and the state legislature,” said Romero, D-Salt Lake City. 

“When individuals are elected, they are entrusted with positions of authority and are expected to adhere to higher standards. Unfortunately, her recent action failed to meet those standards, which is why I had a substitute resolution drafted to start the impeachment process. 

“I sincerely hope that Utah voters will hold her accountable and demonstrate that such behavior is not tolerated by voting her out in the upcoming election.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, a small gathering of educators and community members rallied on the Capitol steps in the rain urging Cline’s impeachment.

“When they passed the resolution last week, they used almost all the right words but they left off ‘impeach,’” said elementary school educator John Arthur, Utah’s 2021 Teacher of the Year and a candidate for District 7 on the Utah State Board of Education.

The group prepared copies of the resolution with “impeach” stamped across the cover and encouraged attendees to write messages to their legislative representatives. “We’re going to deliver those just saying why it’s important that a school board member, someone in this kind of position, be impeached for this type of behavior,” Arthur said.

The Salt Lake County Council voted 7-2 in support of a resolution that said in part, “Salt Lake County deplores the bullying of our children in any form, especially when the bullying of a child is done by an adult, and even more so when the adult is an elected official who is held to a higher standard of public accountability.”

The resolution said Cline’s post and the comments it elicited “were reckless and cruel, and resulted in online vitriol and threats that put that student, her team, her school, and her community in danger.”

The resolution called for Cline to resign immediately.

The two no votes were cast by council members David Alvord and Sheldon Stewart. They said in a joint statement that they, too, were deeply saddened about the girl who was the subject of Cline’s social media post but said the resolution had no clear objective since the county council has no oversight over the state school board.

Meanwhile, Cline’s supporters have created a petition to “show support for Natalie Cline.” As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the petition had 275 signatures.

Cline faces two challengers for the District 9 seat, which is in the southwest quadrant of Salt Lake County. William Shiflett is running as a Democrat and Amanda Bollinger is running as a Republican. Bollinger plans to participate in the upcoming GOP state convention but also collect signatures to secure a place on the ballot.

Shiflett said he is “very disappointed that Natalie Cline has once again put her self interest ahead of those she was elected to represent. The right thing to do would be to resign. Representative Cline has shown all again that it is time for District 9 to get a new representative on the state board of education.”

The press coverage of Cline’s actions and the response “have been a boon for me. I have received many notes of support from across the state and country, all saying that we need to put our kids first. It is so unfortunate that representative Cline continues to put her interest ahead of the needs of our children and educators. I look forward to facing her this fall,” Shiflett said.

Bollinger said she and her campaign volunteers “are working hard to stay focused on running a positive campaign and trying to educate District 9 constituents about the importance of attending caucus on March 5 to make their vote count.”

She continued, “It has been so surprising that many Republican voters assume that they can wait until a primary election to vote and they don’t all understand that they need to go to their neighborhood caucus to vote for delegates who will then select the candidate that will get on the Republican ballot. We are asking that our Republican voters make it a priority to attend caucus so they can make their voices heard.”