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South Weber festival focuses on school choice, education options

By Harrison Epstein - Standard-Examiner | Sep 27, 2021
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State school board member Natalie Cline speaks at the Freedom Festival in South Weber on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
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Nichole Mason, president of Utah Parents United, talks to people at the Freedom Festival in South Weber on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
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Booths are set up at the Freedom Festival in South Weber on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

SOUTH WEBER — The focus is on education. For the dozens who gathered at Canyon Meadows Park on Saturday, learning was the top priority.

Organizers of this weekend’s Freedom Festival, along with invited groups and guest speakers, advocated for additional involvement for parents in their kids’ educational experiences.

The organizers, who joked that they were “five moms,” planned the event to bring attention to both the Constitution and school choice — encompassing public, private, charter and homeschooling options. Kellee England and Stephanie Harper, two of the organizers, said they were excited to bring new ideas to South Weber.

The first speaker of the night was state school board member Natalie Cline. After her was a screening of a documentary by Eric Moutsos of Utah Business Revival.

Cline represents District 6 on the state school board, which covers parts of Salt Lake County and Utah County. Right away, Cline said she was not speaking on behalf of the school board.

“I’m all about supporting the parent in making decisions for their child that they feel are in the best interests of the child,” she said.

Cline was recently reprimanded by the board over social media posts regarding LGBTQ students in the Davis School District. In its statement, the board said, “Since being sworn in as a Board member approximately eight months ago, you have engendered controversy, frustration, and anger toward the Board, certain schools, certain educators, and certain student populations with statements you have posted on your social media regarding our LGBTQIA+ community.”

Outside of recording a podcast interview, this was Cline’s first time speaking to a crowd since the reprimand. She told the Standard-Examiner that people’s attending of the rally wasn’t abut her personally, it was about the ideas.

Cline also called the decision by the Davis School District to ban LGBTQ pride and Black Lives Matter flags a “great win.” Make America Great Again flags are also prohibited in schools under a new district policy aimed at keeping classrooms “politically neutral.”

On Thursday, KSL reported that Cline will be investigated by the Utah State Board of Education for a social media post related to racial healing that could violate the board’s bylaws.

One issue Cline took umbrage with Saturday was about parental access to learning materials, specifically naming Second Step and its associated copyrights. Second Step includes on its website programs focused on social-emotional learning, bullying prevention and child protection.

Cline raised issue with the inclusion of social-emotional learning in schools as, “not academics,” and said the role of schools should be “neutral academics.”

Other groups at the festival included Utah Parents United, the Utah Freedom Coalition and Education Opportunity 4 Every Child.

While there was no counter-demonstration to the festival, chalk writings supporting LGBTQ people were visible on the grounds.

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