The Transportation Security Administration is doing some quick apologizing after an incident that left a 3-year-old girl upset and crying when her parents were told she’d need to submit to a pat-down. The toddler has spina bifida and had reportedly already gone through security at Lambert- St. Louis International Airport, when her mom captured what appears to be TSA agents attempting to touch the tearful girl.
The mom posted the video on YouTube recently, where it shows the family interacting with screeners who don’t want any video to be taken. The little girl cries in her wheelchair while one of her sisters kneels next to her and says at one point, “I don’t want to go to Disney World.”
At first, the screener said the girl would need a pat-down, but the TSA tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that a pat-down isn’t what a screener should do and that the mention of one was “confusing.” It’s also legal to film the process, as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with the procedure.
The situation escalated, her dad says, mostly because the little girl could feel the tension among the adults. In the end, her father carried her through the metal detector while the TSA swabbed the chair.
The TSA itself admits that it was a confusing situation, and we can see why — the agency’s own policies seem to contradict each other, which could only result in its agents not know what the heck they’re supposed to do.
On the TSA’s site the rule regarding “Wheelchairs and Scooters” make no mention of children, and says passengers that can’t walk will be screened with a pat-down.
But then there’s the policy on “Children With Medical Conditions, Mobility Aids Or Disabilities” says no pat-down is necessary: “Please tell the Security Officer what the child’s abilities are. For example: whether the child can walk through the metal detector or can they be carried through the metal detector by the parent/guardian.”
The TSA issued a statement to Consumerist on the situation, saying:
“TSA regrets inaccurate guidance was provided to this family during screening and offers its apology. We are committed to maintaining the security of the traveling public and strive to treat all passengers with dignity and respect. While no pat-down was performed, we will address specific concerns with our workforce.”
Perhaps if its policies weren’t so bewildering, it’d be easier to give “accurate guidance” and train screeners on what to do in confusing situations. Or hey, maybe those situations wouldn’t even get to the point of being confusing in the first place.
TSA apologizes for screening of 3-year-old in wheelchair at St. Louis airport [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]