In his column on Feb. 2, Robert Gehrke took up his sword to eviscerate newly elected state school board member, Natalie Cline.
For the crime of disagreeing with him on what types of political and sexual content should be included in classroom instruction, Gehrke labels Cline a “backward-thinking ultra-conservative” who espouses “harmful views” that should be “condemned.” Incredibly, Gehrke compares Cline to Marjorie Taylor Greene and insinuates that Cline embraces wild conspiracy theories.
Cline is not a conspiracy theorist and has pushed nothing of the sort. Cline ran on the platform she is now pursuing: “neutral academics taught in class, not social engineering and indoctrination.”
Gehrke hints that the foolhardy parents and others who elected her must not have been aware that Cline was a relic “straight out of the 1950s.” But what if they did know what Cline stood for, and that’s exactly why they voted for her? Is it possible that many Utah citizens are concerned about Marxist critical race theory and “gender creative education” entering local schools? Is it possible that Cline’s views are not fringe positions, but rather that Gehrke’s views represent a minority of Utah voters?
Gehrke himself reports that nearly 90% of emails to the school board have been in support of Cline. He attributes this to some sinister “coordinated effort.”
It is more likely that this is an organic response to the full-scale, coordinated campaign by Equality Utah, Black Lives Matter and Utah Women Unite to disparage Cline. The parents, grandparents and other concerned citizens of Utah are making their voices heard, and they seem to be overwhelmingly on Cline’s side.
Gehrke blasts Cline for supposedly opposing acknowledgments of race and culture in the classroom. On the contrary, teaching about civil rights is part of the Utah standards, which Cline supports. Adopting Marxist-leaning curricula which many Utahn’s believe may inflame racial division and undermine Utah’s free-market system is not required by Utah law and Cline is not wrong to question it.
Gehrke laments the fact that there is no current legal means of booting Cline off the board since she has not committed any “high crimes, misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office.” In other words, she’s done nothing wrong — except disagree with Gehrke.
Some have suggested on social media that laws must be hurriedly changed so that Cline can be removed from office. In a democratic republic like the one we live in, you can’t simply oust people from office because you don’t like their views — even if you think their views are harmful. Doing so would upend our system of government and negate the results of legal elections.
When Cline pointed out that she is the latest target of cancel culture, Gehrke said she was “missing the point larger point” about all students being welcomed, valued and nurtured. Neither Cline nor anyone else has said that any child should be unwelcomed or unvalued at school. In fact, Cline voted in support of a recent move by the board to condemn racism and create a climate of hope and inclusion for all, including LGBTQ students. Kindness and inclusion can be fostered in the classroom free from sexual, racial and political ideology.
Gehrke’s final tactic was to shame state school board members into distancing themselves from Cline rather than working with her to find collaborative solutions that best reflect the will of the parents of Utah and that meet the needs of Utah students.
Sowing division on the school board as Gehrke has done will not help meet the needs of Utah’s rising generation. Listening to the voice of the people and encouraging civil dialogue will.
Kimberly Ells, Springville, is a family rights advocate, author of “The Invincible Family: Why the Global Campaign to Crush Motherhood and Fatherhood Can’t Win,” and the mother of five children.