Utah parents Al and Rachel van der Beek have a daughter who they say has been bullied by her peers for how she looks.
“She's a tomboy," Al van der Beek told Scripps News Salt Lake City. "She dresses how she dresses. She's got a vibe. She's super cool, cool style. And, and, you know, she cuts her hair, she works out a lot, hits the gym."
But van der Beek said the cruelty toward his daughter has gotten worse since she started high school basketball.
“Playing, you know, sports in high school, just going to games and then afterwards she's in tears and we're like, ‘What's going on?’" he added. “She's like, ‘Oh the student body, you know, just yelling out names and saying, ‘get the boy off the team’ and ‘he shouldn't be playing.’”
As bad as it sounds, the player's parents expected comments like these from teenagers, but never from an adult.
“So, we found out about Natalie Cline’s post yesterday morning around 10 o'clock and from there, everything just started snowballing,” said Rachel van der Beek.
State Board of Education member Natalie Cline took to Facebook Tuesday night, posting a flyer for a girls basketball game that showed the van Der Beeks' daughter and a caption that read “Girls' basketball ...” Many took it to mean Cline was implying the van der Beeks' daughter may be transgender, even though she is not.
“We were never prepared for an adult to put a picture up of our daughter and use it for their agenda in a political way to elicit hate and cyberbullying,” said Al van Der Beek.
Cline has since taken down the post on social media, expressing her "deepest apologies" for the negative attention her post drew to innocent students and families and also stating she never claimed the athlete was a boy. Rachel van Der Beek said they waited to tell their daughter about the widely circulated post until after school.
“I never thought that was something I would need to protect her from,” she said. “To tell her that there were adults that were in a position to help protect kids that were making comments and making assumptions based strictly on appearance.”
Both parents said they would like to see Cline resign from her position on the board.
“I just feel like, let's stop it now before someone else gets hurt,” said Rachel van Der Beek.
They added that when it comes to how we treat our kids and one another, we need to be better.
“One thing that we feel very strongly about is giving kids a voice, you know, maybe people that don't fit in this exact box of what maybe the world or other people think someone should be,” said Rachel van Der Beek. “We want to be a voice for those kids to just let them know that they're loved, that we see them and that, you know, there's a lot of power in us all being individuals and being who we are.”
This story was originally published by Lucy Nelson at Scripps News Salt Lake City.
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