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Utah school board member condemned for saying schools are 'complicit' in sex trafficking, brainwashing

Posted at 8:36 AM, Jul 14, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education condemned comments made by a board member who said online that schools are "complicit" in child sex trafficking and brainwashing.

In a post made on Facebook on July 4, Natalie Cline made claims that schools are "complicit in the grooming of children for sex trafficking" and that they brainwash "them into queer, gender bending ideologies."

Her comments were made in reference to the movie "The Sound of Freedom," which explores the journey of Tim Ballard and the organization he founded, Operation Underground Railroad.

The Utah State Board of Education issued a statement saying leadership "strongly disapproves" of Cline's statements.

Although Cline is never explicitly named in the statement, it does quote language used in her online post.

"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," the statement reads. "We also condemn any harassment or discrimination against teachers or students on the basis of sexual orientation as provided by Utah law."

"USBE applauds the diligent and indispensable efforts of Utah teachers, parents and education leaders to serve and protect our students and to create environments conducive to learning," the statement continues. "We will continue to support them in this critical work."

This is not the first time Cline has made comments online that have caused outrage.

In February 2021, she was accused of homophobic, transphobic and racist comments after she posted a video of a Utah Pride Center conference that was focused on creating a welcoming environment for all students in school. In the post, she claimed the conference was indoctrination.

Later that year, in August 2021, Cline's comments were placed under review after she shared a photo on Facebook of a gay pride flag in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seminary building.The board later reprimanded Cline for the post, saying it incited unacceptable behavior.

Cline is in her first term on the Utah State Board of Education and was elected in 2020.