Politics & Current Events

TSA Pats Down 4-Yr Old after Hugging Grandma

::rocking myself, 5 days to go until we take our 5-yr old and 3-yr old kids on a plane...::  I'd prefer not to spend time in jail instead of getting on a cruise ship, but dammit.  I will.  Hellz yeah.  Bolding is mine.

http://consumerist.com/2012/04/4-year-old-gets-tsa-pat-down-following-hug-from-grandma.html

Kids today. They say and do the darndest things, even under the watchful eye of the Transportation Security Administration. So who knows what happens when your 4-year-old daughter gives grandma a hug at the airport security checkpoint. In addition to that peck on the cheek, a deadly weapon may have been exchanged.

A few readers have pointed to a story on Facebook, posted by a Montana mom who was flying home from Kansas with her two young children and their grandmother.

According to the poster, she and her kids got through the checkpoint without trouble but grandma had triggered the alarm. She went through the scanner again, but the screener could not firmly ID what was setting off the alarm, and grandma was asked to have a seat and wait for a pat-down.

This is when the 4-year-old ran over to give grandma a hug:

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They made very brief contact, no longer than a few seconds. The Transportation Security Officers(TSO) who were present responded to this very simple action in the worst way imaginable.

First, a TSO began yelling at my child, and demanded she too must sit down and await a full body pat-down. I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way. My daughter, who was dressed in tight leggings, a short sleeve shirt and mary jane shoes, had no pockets, no jacket and nothing in her hands. The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm. It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.

My child, who was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on, and the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain it to her. When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. She screamed, "No! I don't want to!" then did what any frightened young child might, she ran the opposite direction.

That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter a "high-security-threat".

Two TSOs were following her and again I was told to have no contact with my child. At this point, I was beyond upset, I disregarded what the TSO had said to me, and I ran to my daughter. I picked her up. I hugged her. I tried to comfort her...

I was forced to set my child down, they brought her into a side room to administer a pat-down, I followed. My sweet four-year-old child was shaking and crying uncontrollably, she did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her... A TSO began repeating that in the past she had "seen a gun in a teddy bear." The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it. Worse still, she was treating my daughter like she understood how dangerous this was, as if my daughter was not only a tool in a terrorist plot, but actually in on it. The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying "The suspect is not cooperating." The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist...

A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport. They claimed they could not safely check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper.  Oh honey, I'd have been cuffed by now.

Finally, a manager intervened. He determined that my child could, in fact, be cleared through security while crying. I was permitted to hold her while the TSO checked her body. When they found nothing hidden on my daughter, they were forced to let us go, but not until after they had examined my ID and boarding passes for a lengthy amount of time. When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.

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After reading this story, we contacted the TSA to see whether or not the TSOs followed the correct procedure for handling this situation. Here is what the agency had to say:

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TSA has recently implemented modified screening procedures of children 12 and under that further reduce ? though not eliminate ? the need for a physical pat-down for children. In this case, however, the child had completed screening but had contact with another member of her family who had not completed the screening process. TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child.

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Re: TSA Pats Down 4-Yr Old after Hugging Grandma

  • What airports do these people fly out of?! When I fly with the kids if they set off the scanner for the 'random picks' they let either my husband or I do the pat down rather than the kids. The TSA people give them crayons to color while we are getting patted down, etc.

    Do I just live in the best airport ever or what?

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  • I am not sure I would have avoided jail time if this had occurred with my child. 


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  • We have been very fortunate and had only good experiences with the kids and TSA. I call the kids my "get out of jail free" cards because the TSOs usually give them big smiles and wave them through. 

    However, I am not lying when I say that if an adult was to get in the face of my 4yo and speak in an intimidating or threatening manner AND not let me go near my own child, I would get physical. I actually had a visceral reaction while reading this story, shifted around in my seat, and balled one hand into a fist without realizing what I was doing. .

  • image is_it_over_yet?:

    We have been very fortunate and had only good experiences with the kids and TSA. I call the kids my "get out of jail free" cards because the TSOs usually give them big smiles and wave them through. 

    However, I am not lying when I say that if an adult was to get in the face of my 4yo and speak in an intimidating or threatening manner AND not let me go near my own child, I would get physical. I actually had a visceral reaction while reading this story, shifted around in my seat, and balled one hand into a fist without realizing what I was doing. .

    YES.  This.  And excuse me, but if they followed procedure - why did a manager have to intervene to basically throw out the agents' decision on its ear and allow Ms. High Security Threat on her merry way?  They did NOT act appropriately.  

    I know it's an anecdote from a woman on FB and it could certainly use verification - but DAMN.  It definitely makes a mom's hackles rise. 

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  • WTMF?!? I was really hoping it was just a couple of crappy employees, but then the TSA defended this? Yup, jail time would have been an absolute, but god, it would feel so good to slug that creep in the face.
  • image DruidPrincess:
    image is_it_over_yet?:

    We have been very fortunate and had only good experiences with the kids and TSA. I call the kids my "get out of jail free" cards because the TSOs usually give them big smiles and wave them through. 

    However, I am not lying when I say that if an adult was to get in the face of my 4yo and speak in an intimidating or threatening manner AND not let me go near my own child, I would get physical. I actually had a visceral reaction while reading this story, shifted around in my seat, and balled one hand into a fist without realizing what I was doing. .

    YES.  This.  And excuse me, but if they followed procedure - why did a manager have to intervene to basically throw out the agents' decision on its ear and allow Ms. High Security Threat on her merry way?  They did NOT act appropriately.  

    I know it's an anecdote from a woman on FB and it could certainly use verification - but DAMN.  It definitely makes a mom's hackles rise. 

    It might be anecdotal, but all the bad TSA experiences are b/c nobody around you is going to grab their cell phone and start videotaping the craziness or they too won't be allowed on their flight. 

    Crazy to think that the TSA people wouldn't just allow the mom to hold the daughter and then they could both go through pat-down again.  That seems reasonable and I'm guessing any mom wouldn't mind a pat-down to help their child through the process?!

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  • I'm not even a parent and I have to wonder how this woman even let the first threat pass that TSO's lips. I'd be in their face before they'd even get the second word out. Yes I know this may or may not be a fact.
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  • I would have been in jail-in fact if someone wouldn't let me near my 4 yr old child **I** would have called the police.
  • We do not have children yet, and reading this story I am not sure who would have ended up in jail faster me and my husband. You yelled at MY kid for hugging Grandma WTMF ok time for Mama Grizzly!! on the real!

  • I'm joining the "I'd be in jail" crowd. Just reading this gets my blood pressure up.
    A big old middle finger to you, stupid Nest.
  • Ordered her to stop crying? And she didn't? Shoulda tased the suspect.
    wtmf, add me to the would've been arrested club. Poor kiddo.
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    image DruidPrincess:
    Oh honey, I'd have been cuffed by now.

    Understatement of the year. I wish a mfer would.

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  • Yeah, pretty sure I'd have ended up on a permanent do not fly list following that...
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  • I don't know if I believe this whole story...there have been other somewhat exaggerated stories of TSA malfeasance that proved to have another side to the story.
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  • image MrDobalina:
    I don't know if I believe this whole story...there have been other somewhat exaggerated stories of TSA malfeasance that proved to have another side to the story.

    TBH, I also wondered about this just because it seems so... I don't know, extreme.  Then again, if I hadn't seen actual video of the new mother in Arizona being mistreated over her breastmilk, I would have doubted that one, too.  Given that TSA has a track record of serious shananigans, I'm inclined to believe the worst until evidence to the contrary emerges.

  • image MrDobalina:
    I don't know if I believe this whole story...there have been other somewhat exaggerated stories of TSA malfeasance that proved to have another side to the story.
    I'm sure some of the interactions are exaggerated, but most of the stories ended up having legit facts, like breast milk being taken away.  The recall of what people said, how they looked at you, can be exaggerated, but usually tsa has effed up somewhere.  

    I could see the policy being that if people touch, and only one has been screened, that leads to more patdowns.  That kind of makes sense, even with the young age.  I could see a policy that if you're getting extra screening, you don't have further contact with the people you're traveling with.  So far, that kind of makes sense.

    Add on top of that a TSO, just robotically doing their job, treating the child just like an adult, as in, coldly.  Sit here, wait, spread your legs, etc, and you get the makings of a scared hysterical child.  And the more upset they are (vocal, running away), the more you institute increased security measures.  

    I'm sure by the letter of the policy, the agents were correct.  But anyone with half a brain should know how to prevent an escalation like this. Anyone who's been in the presence of children knows that telling them to stop crying only makes it worse.

    image
  • Delurking. I just had to comment on this story.  I've flown 7 round trips with my DD, including one internationally, and we've been treated with the utmost respect by TSA and airline agents. 

    In fact, I have had TSA agents help me carry things through the to be scanned and collapse my stroller when I was flying alone with DD.  I just can't imagine where these people are flying, or if they just lose it and cause part of the problem themselves. 

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  • image is_it_over_yet?:

    image MrDobalina:
    I don't know if I believe this whole story...there have been other somewhat exaggerated stories of TSA malfeasance that proved to have another side to the story.

    TBH, I also wondered about this just because it seems so... I don't know, extreme.  Then again, if I hadn't seen actual video of the new mother in Arizona being mistreated over her breastmilk, I would have doubted that one, too.  Given that TSA has a track record of serious shananigans, I'm inclined to believe the worst until evidence to the contrary emerges.

    I'm with IIOY

    FYI I just flew in and out of Miami for a cruise, and the agents were fine. I even forgot to dump our water bottles, but the agent said since we had kids he'll just shake it. I offered to go dump it, but he said "No, it's for the kids." I wish I had smuggled in vodka, lol. 

  • image laurakaz13:

    Delurking. I just had to comment on this story.  I've flown 7 round trips with my DD, including one internationally, and we've been treated with the utmost respect by TSA and airline agents. 

    In fact, I have had TSA agents help me carry things through the to be scanned and collapse my stroller when I was flying alone with DD.  I just can't imagine where these people are flying, or if they just lose it and cause part of the problem themselves. 

    An anecdote of 1 totally makes up for all the other stories.

    I can say that in all my traveling, the best experience is when they merely ignore me.  Surly is more common.  Respect doesn't even begin to enter the picture.

    Anecdotes ftw! 

    image
  • image Sibil:

    I can say that in all my traveling, the best experience is when they merely ignore me.  Surly is more common.  Respect doesn't even begin to enter the picture.

    Anecdotes ftw! 

    Aren't you the one that got the surprise finger during the pat down? 

    A big old middle finger to you, stupid Nest.
  • image EloiseWeenieSkipperdee:

    FYI I just flew in and out of Miami for a cruise, and the agents were fine. I even forgot to dump our water bottles, but the agent said since we had kids he'll just shake it. I offered to go dump it, but he said "No, it's for the kids." I wish I had smuggled in vodka, lol. 

    ::scribbling notes furiously:: 

    ChallengeAcceptedMeme_TwoParty
  • image DruidPrincess:
    image EloiseWeenieSkipperdee:

    FYI I just flew in and out of Miami for a cruise, and the agents were fine. I even forgot to dump our water bottles, but the agent said since we had kids he'll just shake it. I offered to go dump it, but he said "No, it's for the kids." I wish I had smuggled in vodka, lol. 

    ::scribbling notes furiously:: 

    Random, but cab fare from airport to port of Miami is $25.  

  • image EloiseWeenieSkipperdee:
    image DruidPrincess:
    image EloiseWeenieSkipperdee:

    FYI I just flew in and out of Miami for a cruise, and the agents were fine. I even forgot to dump our water bottles, but the agent said since we had kids he'll just shake it. I offered to go dump it, but he said "No, it's for the kids." I wish I had smuggled in vodka, lol. 

    ::scribbling notes furiously:: 

    Random, but cab fare from airport to port of Miami is $25.  

    LOL thanks! We're actually cruising out of a different port, but the vodka idea is good.  We got a tip to use them for bringing alky onboard. 

    ChallengeAcceptedMeme_TwoParty
  • image pixy_stix:
    image Sibil:

    I can say that in all my traveling, the best experience is when they merely ignore me.  Surly is more common.  Respect doesn't even begin to enter the picture.

    Anecdotes ftw! 

    Aren't you the one that got the surprise finger during the pat down? 

    I don't know about any surprise.  I do know that when I first experienced a pat down, I was shocked at the whole touching the middle of my vulva bit.  Now they say they go until they "meet resistance," but this was over a year ago when the pat downs were fairly new.
    image
  • Even if the mother is exaggerating a bit, its still awful. The TSA doesn't have a good history so I'm inclined to think she is telling the truth.

    I had a body search once in Heathrow. Awkward. 

    image


  • In my own antecdotal story of flying with my 18 month old, we had a could-have-turned-ugly scenario last month.

    I am pregnant so I opted for the patdown. I was also wearing DD in the Ergo because she likes to run so she had to get patted down as well. DH went through the regular screening but was 3 feet away on the other side of the magical roped off area.

    I had to take DD out of the carrier so we could be patted down separately. Again, fine. They had me put her on a chair a few feet from me (closer to DH, but still on the other side of the "fence") while I got searched, which FTR, is not pleasant and a little bit gross. While I was getting patted down, there was another TSA agent watching me getting patted down, but no one was watching DD except for DH and I. She started squirming and climbing out of the chair, and I reached over to make sure she stayed on the chair. They told me I wasn't allowed to touch her because she hadn't been patted down. Uh, ok. Then make her stay on the chair.

    I motioned for DH to come over (he was putting on his shoes at this point) and they said that he couldn't touch her because he was clear but she wasn't. I told them at least a dozen times, "I don't need to touch her, just make sure she stays on the chair." She likes to run around and if no one could restrain her to make sure she was not running around through security, we would have a bigger problem.

    I'm watching her get out of the chair, but they aren't allowing me to put her back in the chair (no touching, remember) and DH can't put her back in the chair either. Again, I told them, just make sure she stays in the chair for her safety. Nope, can't touch this. By this point, I just walked over to her, TSA agent still grabbing at my thigh, and physically blocked her with my body so she couldn't get down. They couldn't fathom DD wouldn't just listen and stay seated.  "Ma'am, you need to stay seated, " they tell my daughter. Yeah, ok, getting an 18 month old to sit in a chair while 2 adults are calling her ma'am is going to go over well. Cue the meltdown. Nope, I can't console her. She's not clear yet.

    Ho.ly.shits. Finally, after an eternity, I could stand her up next to me and they patted her down. "Her diaper area felt a little thick." Yeah, it's a diaper."

    By this point I wanted a cocktail at 10am.

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  • image EloiseWeenieSkipperdee:

    I'm with IIOY

    FYI I just flew in and out of Miami for a cruise, and the agents were fine. I even forgot to dump our water bottles, but the agent said since we had kids he'll just shake it. I offered to go dump it, but he said "No, it's for the kids." I wish I had smuggled in vodka, lol. 

    When I was flying out of Pittsburgh while pregnant, I had forgotten to take a water bottle out of my bag. I apologized for this oversight, but the female TSO said "It's OK, you can keep it; it's a medical necessity" .

    That said, if I was that mom I would have totally called that bluff about shutting the whole airport down and canceling flights.

    image

    image
  • image LoisLane23:

    In my own antecdotal story of flying with my 18 month old, we had a could-have-turned-ugly scenario last month.

    I am pregnant so I opted for the patdown. I was also wearing DD in the Ergo because she likes to run so she had to get patted down as well. DH went through the regular screening but was 3 feet away on the other side of the magical roped off area.

    I had to take DD out of the carrier so we could be patted down separately. Again, fine. They had me put her on a chair a few feet from me (closer to DH, but still on the other side of the "fence") while I got searched, which FTR, is not pleasant and a little bit gross. While I was getting patted down, there was another TSA agent watching me getting patted down, but no one was watching DD except for DH and I. She started squirming and climbing out of the chair, and I reached over to make sure she stayed on the chair. They told me I wasn't allowed to touch her because she hadn't been patted down. Uh, ok. Then make her stay on the chair.

    I motioned for DH to come over (he was putting on his shoes at this point) and they said that he couldn't touch her because he was clear but she wasn't. I told them at least a dozen times, "I don't need to touch her, just make sure she stays on the chair." She likes to run around and if no one could restrain her to make sure she was not running around through security, we would have a bigger problem.

    I'm watching her get out of the chair, but they aren't allowing me to put her back in the chair (no touching, remember) and DH can't put her back in the chair either. Again, I told them, just make sure she stays in the chair for her safety. Nope, can't touch this. By this point, I just walked over to her, TSA agent still grabbing at my thigh, and physically blocked her with my body so she couldn't get down. They couldn't fathom DD wouldn't just listen and stay seated.  "Ma'am, you need to stay seated, " they tell my daughter. Yeah, ok, getting an 18 month old to sit in a chair while 2 adults are calling her ma'am is going to go over well. Cue the meltdown. Nope, I can't console her. She's not clear yet.

    Ho.ly.shits. Finally, after an eternity, I could stand her up next to me and they patted her down. "Her diaper area felt a little thick." Yeah, it's a diaper."

    By this point I wanted a cocktail at 10am.

    the level of stupidity never ceases to amaze me.

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