Imagine a scene in which a small child is being touched all over her body while she screams and cries and begs for it to stop.
While that may sound like something you’d hear about at a pedophile’s trial, it’s actually the scene that played out in a Chattanooga, Tennessee airport between a Transportation Security Administration agent and a 3-year-old girl.
The girl is Mandy Simon and she was traveling with her parents last month when the incident occurred. While going through the security checkpoint, Mandy’s teddy bear was taken away from her to be screened. This upset Mandy, who started crying and, according to her father, had a “tough time” going through the metal detector.
I don’t know exactly what Mandy did wrong going through that metal detector, but whatever it was made the alarm go off – twice. In TSA world, a double alarm means an automatic hand-search. And while most adults would find being hand-searched by a TSA agent an uncomfortable experience, it was pure torture for 3-year-old Mandy.
Her dad, Steve Simon, happens to be a television news reporter and recorded the incident on his cell phone. The video is disturbing and my heart breaks for Mandy, who is clearly distraught and scared. In a story that aired on local television in Houston, her father asks the question: “Did it have to be like this?”
James Marchand, TSA Regional Security Director, wouldn’t comment on the video but did agree that young children should be treated differently when being handled by airport security. He helpfully suggested that perhaps TSA screeners could make the experience more fun for kids by making a game out of it. But when asked about sensitivity training for agents dealing with kids, Marchand promised only to ask his training department to look into it.
Not only was that experience unnecessarily upsetting to Mandy, it is likely to confuse the heck out of her when it comes to knowing the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching. Not only was she forced to submit to being manhandled by a stranger, her mother was forced to be complicit in the violation by holding her while it happened.
As Madeline wrote about last week, travelers are getting sick of the TSA treatment. One group is even proposing a National Opt-Out Day in which fliers on November 24 join together in solidarity against those new full-body scans. That’s all well and good, but that just means more scary and inappropriate hand-searches for everyone.
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