Utah State Board of Education Member Natalie Cline under Board investigation

Jul 13, 2023, 4:20 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2023, 4:21 pm

A screenshot of a video taken during a presentation of the group, Higher Ground, in late June 2023....

FILE: USBE member Natalie Cline (R) and Monica Wilbur (L) are pictured in this video capture of a Higher Ground presentation at Taylorsville Library in late June, 2023. (Higher Ground presentation screengrab)

(Higher Ground presentation screengrab)

SALT LAKE CITY  — Some recent comments over a staff member’s gender orientation, recent social media posts, and one other unknown situation involving Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline are being investigated by the State Board of Education for possible violation of board bylaws.

USBE auditors confirm those are three of 87 complaints made against Natalie Cline since around the time she was last publicly reprimanded by the board, in September of 2021.

Spokeswoman Kelsey James said the board hotline has received over 1,000 complaints during that same time period. The hotline is open for comments related to any educational topic, not just complaints about board members.  

Those 87 complaints were about 22 different topics, the USBE auditor said.  

“We have received a number of concerns by the hotline about member Cline,” James said. “We’ve also received a number of positive constituent feedback about Cline.”

At the time of this writing, KSL Newsradio is still awaiting the details of a public records request outlining the nature of each of those complaints.

“Schools are complicit in grooming children …”

Board reps confirm at least two matters, the recent comments about the staff member and a recent social media post alleging schools are complicit in grooming children for sex trafficking by giving kids easy access to ‘explicit, unnatural, and twisted sexual content brainwashing them into queer, gender bending ideologies’, have been referred to board leadership.

KSL NewsRadio has also learned that six members of the board called a meeting with Chair Jim Moss Tuesday night to demand Cline be publicly reprimanded again.

The last time Cline was censured for comments deemed as marginalizing LGBTQ+ students, the board required she put a disclaimer before each social media post.

Cline did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Board Chair Jim Moss initially agreed to an interview, then sent a prepared statement to KSL NewsRadio because of the demands of his workday. 

USBE leadership strongly disapproves of recent social media statements by one board member that schools are “complicit in the grooming of children for sex trafficking” and “brainwashing them into queer, gender bending ideologies.

Such an allegation against schools generally is inflammatory, divisive and unfair to Utah’s teachers, who put Utah’s students first every day and interfere with efforts to provide thoughtful solutions to difficult issues. We also condemn any harassment or discrimination against teachers or students on the basis of sexual orientation as provided by Utah law. 

Comments about a USBE staff member

The most recent comments being investigated, and the possible board violation stems from a presentation Cline gave last month as part of an organization she runs called Higher Ground at the Taylorsville Library. 

According to their website, Higher Ground believes “the public school system is out of control,” and using tactics of control and fear to prop up an LGBTQ agenda. They also claim school systems, like Social Emotional Learning, are used to “behaviorally condition children toward value systems and mindsets” that promote social agendas over traditional, family-based norms. 

“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity are euphemisms for the racial, cultural, and sexual politicization of learning and working environments,” the website claims.  

At the end of Cline’s hour-long presentation where she and her co-presenter Monica Wilbur outline all the ways in which they believe Title IX in schools is violating personal rights of consciousness, Cline made a comment about a USBE staff member, according to people in the audience. 

“Natalie said that the person who is in charge of family services of USBE … sometimes they came in and you didn’t know if they were a man and a woman, or how they were dressing, or what pronouns they would want you to use,” said Julie Jackson.

Jackson is a member of the Granite School Board, speaking only as herself and not representing any views of that board. She attended the presentation because it was in her district and she wanted to get an understanding of what the group believed. 

Jackson said the comments crossed a line into discrimination when Cline questioned the USBE staffers’s ability to do her job. 

“And that is when [Cline] said, how can a person like this effectively advocate for our families.”  She later filed a complaint against Cline.

In the video presentation posted online, that portion of the video has been edited and a message tells the viewer the camera’s battery died.

Natalie Cline Social media posts

Several of Cline’s social media posts rail against LGBTQ rights. They take aim at schools for being complicit in using systems to push those agendas. And one takes aim at the Utah Pride Center for what Cline calls, “their mission to queer our children with recruitment and indoctrination efforts.” 

In the post being questioned by the board, Cline writes that schools — like the ones she represents — are “complicit” in the “grooming” of children.

“Schools are not only complicit in the grooming of children for sex trafficking, but they are aiding and abetting this evil practice by giving kids easy access to explicit, unnatural, and twisted sexual content and brainwashing them into queer, gender-bending ideologies,” Cline wrote before sharing a promotion for the Tim Ballard movie “Sound of Freedom.”

One parent on Twitter called Cline’s post “triggering and incredibly painful” as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.   

Others on Twitter praised Cline for speaking up.

“It’s so infuriating and sadistic what they are doing to our children,” a follower named Amanda Probst wrote.

What’s next?

Board Chair Moss did not confirm whether he plans to bring the issues in front of the full board for discussion about possible punishment. He did say the board is “following their processes” to look into the issues.

Moss and board leadership could either take action on their own or put it on August’s Executive Committee meeting for the full board to take action. 

Board members who met with Moss on Tuesday want action sooner than August.

“Make a public statement that we are investigating these reports, but that her views do not align with the full Board, that we respect our USBE staff, and educators. 2. Consider removing Member Cline from her Committee assignment for a 6-month period,” one member wrote to Moss in an email obtained by KSL NewsRadio. 

We want to hear from you.

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Utah State Board of Education Member Natalie Cline under Board investigation