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TSA Apologizes For Disability Screening Debacle


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The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing after a 3-year-old in a wheelchair was told she would receive a pat-down by agents.

The incident earlier this month at the St. Louis airport sparked an outcry online after the girl’s parents posted a video on YouTube documenting their experience. The post has been viewed nearly 250,000 times.

The family was headed to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. when they were pulled aside by TSA agents, who indicated that they would pat down the girl named Lucy.

In the video, Lucy is seen crying. TSA agents are heard telling her mother that it is illegal to tape such interactions, which agency officials now say is not true.

Eventually, agents decided not to pat down the child.

“We regret that this happened and TSA has apologized directly to the family for their inconvenience at the airport,” the agency wrote on their website. “This will be addressed with our workforce so we can continue to treat all passengers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. JP says:

    We recently traveled with my 3 year old and 7 year old. Both of whom have CP and were in wheel chairs. Both also were wearing braces on their legs. We were told that they would have to be patted down. I told them that they would not touch my children. I had to remove their shoes and afo’s and carry them through the metal detectors. My three year old was also hooked to a feeding pump which also had to be removed and all of his formula put into a machine for testing. I was so complicated and time consuming along with keeping up with the other carryons with supplies, but I was not about to let them manhandle my children.

  2. holly says:

    My 18yr old total care in wheel chair has been a pat down every time we traveled. They would use somekind of instrument to scan her bare hands again and again. I asked my son who is pilot what they were lookin for. He said he thinks “powder of some kind”. We laughed and laughed and laughed. I don’t intend to travel by airlines anymore because its always a 3 ring circus. By the way we also go through the scanner because I can’t pick her up and carry her through. she has afo on and I remember someone telling me to take off her shoes. The look I gave him maybe it made him back off but I always just ask for a female patter than My girl just laughs at them. It a lenghty process. She really looks like a criminal by the way.
    mom of special needs person in west mich

  3. Jean says:

    As a mother of an eight year old child, who uses a wheelchair and leg braces, I can attest that the TSA agents acted consistently with our experience on numerous trips. Perhaps the word “pat down” is alarming to those who do not travel on a regular basis. Sadly, we live in a post 911 world. There are terrorists who would think nothing of planting explosive devices on a child. Having watched the video, this child was treated identically to my son. Having gone through this type of process numerous times at multiple airports throughout the country, I can attest to the fact that my son has always been kept well within my vision. Anyone with metal inside or outside of their bodies has to expect careful scrutiny. TSA agents have a difficult job to do and should be respected for keeping the traveling public safe. I do think child-friendly materials could be developed to better prepare children for this process.

  4. Sue says:


    I have worked with preschoolers for 16 years and in addition the past 8 years with individuals of all ages who have a disability. I cannot understand why anyone would pat down a three year, or any child with a disability or not. Such an incident could be traumatizing to a little one. As a United States citizen , and frequent flyer, I do not approve of being treated like a common criminal at the airport. We should be cautious and look out for those who really alert suspicion. NOT THREE year olds. Has a U.S. citizen ever put explosive devices on a child? Just curious.

  5. MeToo says:

    The TSA does not protect people from terrorists. There are numerous ways to get a bomb onto a plane – the easiest being to bribe a TSA agent or a baggage handler. What TSA does is “security theatre”. Treating American citizens like criminals does no protect anyone. Teaching Americans to waive their Constitutional rights is much more dangerous than allowing people to board a plane with no screening at all.

    Some of us, especially those with “touch” issues caused by assault, abuse, rape, molestation episodes – can’t fly no matter how “prepared” we are. Every one of you who submits to this “security” abuse without a protest makes it harder for the rest of us to dislodge TSA.

  6. Jay says:

    I don’t know how people can fly anymore, especially with children. Why would anyone want to subject themselves, let alone their child(dren), to a stranger touching them? That kind of touching, and we all know TSA touches the genitalia, IS sexual abuse.

    We all teach our children that their private areas are just that; private and they need to protect themselves and let their parents know if someone touches them. YET, so many parents are allowing the TSA to touch their children. Why are we putting up with this? It’s not for ‘security’ reasons. As someone with a Masters degree in Criminal justice/terrorism prevention; there are FAR better ways to prevent terrorists, that don’t include ‘pat down’ sexual abuse.

  7. Robert says:

    I just flew out of STL. I was pushed in a chair to the screening area, I was given a “TSA” cane as mine went through the x-ray. I walked in the full body scanner and they saw my whole body. I walked out and had to be “patted down” and have hands “swabbed”. When I was being pushed out of the next airport in a wheelchair two TSA “agents” were walking in. One was telling the other that he would have to “pat-down and the whole thing all of those”. It appeared she was referring to me, which it appears, “all of those” are the “disabled” On my return trip I will see if the same events happen and I have to have my genitalia felt by some TSA agent. If so, I believe there should be a class action suit, because if all of us are be “patted down”, singled out, we should sue and put an end to this. To my knowledge there hasn’t been one act of “terrorism” by a person that is labeled “disabled”. We need to put an end to this.

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