Natalie Cline called ‘hero’ by rowdy supporters at first Utah school board appearance since censure

Several times, Cline supporters kept talking even after their public comment period was up, ignoring repeated attempts from the Utah State Board of Education’s chair to cut them off.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline is surrounded by supporters in the hallway during the first regular USBE meeting since her censure, on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

After defying calls for her resignation, Utah school board member Natalie Cline on Thursday appeared before a rowdy crowd of supporters for her first regular meeting since board leaders censured her last month.

Some wore T-shirts that read ”I stand with Natalie Cline,” and many used their allotted two minutes of public comment each to criticize board leaders’ decision to discipline her, calling it “unconstitutional,” “disgusting” and “bigoted.”

Several times, commenters kept talking even after their time was up, ignoring repeated attempts by James Moss, the board’s chair, to cut them off. Supporters’ speeches were also met with applause and cheers from others at times, prompting Moss to interject and restore order.

The display of support for Cline comes after she falsely suggested a high school athlete was transgender in a since-deleted Facebook post early last month. The post caused a social media frenzy and prompted formal condemnation from state lawmakers and local leaders alike.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Embattled Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline attends the first regular USBE meeting since her censure.

About a week later, the Utah State Board of Education decided to censure Cline during a special meeting that Cline did not attend. As part of the rare disciplinary action, leaders unanimously voted to prohibit Cline from placing items on USBE agendas, remove her from all standing committees and forbid her from attending advisory committees. They also requested by unanimous vote that she resign from her position immediately.

Several of Cline’s supporters Thursday called the board’s unprecedented decision an attempt to “silence” her during an election year. Some accused its leaders of failing to provide her “due process,” alleging that the board had incited a “witch hunt.”

“Natalie Cline recently made a mistake,” one speaker said. “The injustice of holding Natalie accountable for comments of other people [and] the lack of due process is unconstitutional and unethical. You cannot be her accuser, her prosecutor, her judge and her jury.”

[Read more: 3 years of controversy, complaints preceded latest public outcry against Natalie Cline]

USBE bylaws allow the board to take disciplinary action against members when they violate administrative code, bylaws and policy. An internal investigation cited 11 such violations from Cline. Her actions, according to the board’s censure resolution, amounted to “cyberbullying” and “harassment” of a minor.

But Cline’s supporters hailed her as a “hero,” “whistleblower” and a “valuable asset” to parents on Thursday. They argued she was the only board member “willing” to expose “liberal indoctrination” and “gender ideology” that they said is being pushed on Utah students.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Supporters of Utah State Board of Education member Natalie Cline wear shirts that read “I stand with Natalie Cline” as Cline mingles in the hallway during a USBE meeting on Thursday, March 7, 2024.

“The transparency Natalie brings to the board’s corrupted agendas is invaluable to Utah’s families,” said Monica Wilbur, who runs a right-wing education advocacy organization with Cline and is running for a USBE seat in District 10.

At least two speakers early Thursday shared that they supported the board’s decision to discipline Cline.

“Thank you for your recent actions,” said parent Kevin Korous. “As a parent of a 4-year-old, it does scare me to think that my my child could be subjected to unnecessary threat and fear just because of their personal identity characteristics or just by how they look.”

Cline’s term for her USBE seat in District 9 — which covers parts of southern Salt Lake County and northern Utah County — ends on Jan. 6, 2025. Following her Facebook post, donations poured in to her Republican opponent, Amanda Bollinger, which included a $5,000 donation from Gov. Spencer Cox.

In a Facebook post prior to USBE’s Feb. 14 disciplinary hearing , Cline, too, questioned whether the planned meeting and resulting discipline amounted to “election interference.”

“A politicized investigation this close to an election will only cause more harm to ‘the good name of the Board,’” Cline alleged in an email she wrote to board leaders at the time, which she attached to the Facebook post.

Cline did not make any remarks immediately following public comment on Thursday.